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Nishikori reflects on 'emotional' Brisbane success: Japanese star beats Daniil Medvedev to claim his first ATP World Tour title in almost three years

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 6 Jan 2019
  • Kei Nishikori defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 to win the Brisbane title
  • Nishikori claimed his first title since February 2016, ending a run of nine straight losses in ATP World Tour finals
Kei Nishikori. (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Kei Nishikori claimed his first ATP World Tour title in almost three years after beating Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 in the final of the Brisbane International on Sunday.

Nishikori's Brisbane success was the 12th tour-level title of his career, but his first since he won Memphis in February 2016. Since then, the world No. 9 had played and lost nine finals, including Brisbane in 2017 when he was beaten by Grigor Dimitrov.

The Japanese missed the tournament last season as he recovered from a wrist injury, but he returned to Queensland with a bang, beating Denis Kudla, Grigor Dimitrov, Jeremy Chardy and Medvedev.

"I always start with this tournament and Melbourne, [but I] couldn't make it last year. So I had to start at some ATP Challenger Tour events," said Nishikori. "For sure, [this year is] a better start because I feel this tournament is always the start of the year. Playing with these guys, these top players, always motivates me. Playing good tennis [and being] very happy and healthy is one of the best keys for me."

Medvedev had shown terrific form in progressing to his fifth tour-level final, taking down former champions, Andy Murray and Milos Raonic, as well as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route the final. The 22-year-old Russian is one of the rising stars in the sport, having worked his way up to No. 16 in the world last season. Medvedev won three titles last year- Sydney, Winston-Salem and Tokyo, where he defeated Nishikori on the Japanese' home turf.

The Russian threatened a repeat when he jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Brisbane, hitting the ball hard and clean and controlling the baseline, but Nishikori soon upped his level, cutting out the unforced errors to get back into the match. The world No. 9 won four games in a row from 0-3, and six of the next seven games to take the opening set.

Nishikori continued to play at a very high level in the second set, holding easily and constantly applying pressure on the Medvedev serve, but he couldn't convert any of eight break points, and was made to pay for his profligacy later in the set.

Medvedev deserves plenty of credit for hanging in there, and he got rewarded for his industry in a dramatic conclusion to the set. The 22-year-old had looked on the edge for most of set, repeatedly waving his arms in frustration and tossing his racket into the ground, but when an unlikely opening arrived in the eighth game, he was good enough to take it. The world No. 16 converted his only break point of the set with a backhand down the line, and he powered to a hold in the next game to send the final into a decider.

Having worked so hard to keep himself in the match, Medvedev spoilt his good work by throwing in a poor service game at 1-2, giving up one double fault and a couple of cheap errors to hand Nishikori the break. The Japanese broke again to open up a 5-1 lead, and despite failing to close out the match on his own serve, the second seed broke for the third time in the set to complete the win and take the title.

"To win the tournament is very emotional. That's why I'm playing," said Nishikori. "I was trying in every final and every tournament... I played a great match against Dimitrov and today's match was another good tennis [match]. I'm sure Daniil is going to be [in the] Top 10 soon."

The victory stands him in good stead ahead of the Australian Open, where he will again attempt to win a maiden Grand Slam title, while Medvedev will try to defend his Sydney title next week before heading to Melbourne for the first major of the year. 

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Nishikori reflects on 'emotional' Brisbane success: Japanese star beats Daniil Medvedev to claim his first ATP World Tour title in almost three years

Kei Nishikori beat Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 to win the Brisbane International title.

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