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Wawrinka vs Nishikori tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – With the head-to-head poised at 4-4, who will win this Cincinnati Masters second-round battle?

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 15 Aug 2018
  • Kei Nishikori faces Stan Wawrinka in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters
  • Wawrinka vs Nishikori is live from Cincinnati on Wednesday at 7pm local/12am BST
Stan Wawrinka (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka face off in a blockbuster second-round match at the Cincinnati Masters on Wednesday.

Two players searching for their best form after injury clash for a place in the third round at the Cincinnati Masters as Stan Wawrinka faces Kei Nishikori.

It’s been a difficult road back for Wawrinka after the knee surgeries the three-time Grand Slam champion underwent in autumn of last year, but the former world no. 3 at last seems to be recapturing some of his best form and finding some momentum. Coming into the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week, Wawrinka hadn’t won back-to-back matches since reaching the semifinals in Sofia in February and his last two defeats had come to world no. 133 Thomas Fabbiano (after beating Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of Wimbledon) and world no. 234 Donald Young.

Wawrinka congratulates Rafael Nadal after their match in Toronto last week  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
But Wawrinka did manage to string together two wins in Toronto, coming back from 1-6 down against both Nick Kyrgios and Marton Fucsovics to secure a place in the round of 16 – and then the Swiss star, whose ranking had declined to world no. 195, acquitted himself well in a tight straight-sets defeat to Rafael Nadal, producing storms of brilliance on his way to a 5-7, 6-7(4) defeat.

The run not only got Wawrinka’s ranking moving in the right direction – he’s up to world no. 151 this week – but it saw the Swiss play his best tennis since before the surgeries and, significantly, he has built on that this week in Cincinnati already. Up against the incredibly determined 12th seed Diego Schwartzman in the first round, Wawrinka had to play very well and he did against a dogged and very good opponent, holding his own to get the 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

‘Those are the kind of matches that I'm looking for. It's important for my confidence. It's important for my game,’ Wawrinka said. ‘I think to beat a player like Diego, it's not only important for confidence but it show that I'm playing well, I'm moving well. He's in the top 20 in the world, so it's a big win.’  

Kei Nishikori has also been estranged from his best form following a bout of injury, albeit less dramatically than Wawrinka. It was just over a year ago that Nishikori shut his 2017 season down, although he may not have realized it at the time, not playing another match that year after losing to Gael Monfils at the Rogers Cup.

Nishikori was trying to rehab a wrist injury and wasn’t ready to return at the Australian Open, opting to work his way back in to competition at Challenger events first, winning the second he played before reaching the semifinals of the New York Open. The Japanese player’s ranking never dipped lower than world no. 36 and he never struggled to string together wins in the way that Wawrinka has – he made the final of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in April, the fourth round of Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon before losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets.

Kei Nishikori in action against Andrey Rublev (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
But Nishikori has definitely been missing something, with his forehand in particular remaining erratic. One would think if he was going to find his best form anywhere, it would be American hard courts – site of the one and only Grand Slam final Nishikori has reached, back in 2014 – and he played well in Washington, D.C. to beat Denis Shapovalov before losing in the quarterfinals to Alexander Zverev, only to suffer an unexpected and bruising defeat to Robin Haase in the first round of the Canada Masters last week. 

Nishikori bounced back in the opening round of Cincinnati, where his record is surprisingly poor – 5-4 – with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Andrey Rublev, the talented young Russian who has barely been in evidence in the past few months due to injury troubles of his own. Nishikori was broken serving for the first set, but managed to come back and break for it a couple of games later, and had no such issues closing it out in the next game.

With lucky loser Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or Fucsovics waiting in the next round, this is a good opportunity for Wawrinka and Nishikori to secure some ranking points by making it to the quarterfinals in Cincinnati. But which will it be? Their head-to-head is tied at 4-4, with Wawrinka having won their only previous meeting in Cincinnati in straight sets; on American hard courts it’s 2-2, with Wawrinka having won their most recent encounter in that context in the semifinals of the US Open in 2016 (on his way to the title) – but Nishikori has won the two most recent matches they have played overall, winning at the ATP Finals in late 2016 and Brisbane in early 2017. Based on the tennis he played in Toronto and against Schwartzman in the first round in Cincinnati, and an intangible sense that he has more confidence and vim at the moment than Nishikori, I give the edge to Wawrinka – but it’s a tremendously tough one to call.

Wawrinka vs Nishikori second-round tennis is live from Cincinnati on Wednesday at 7pm local/12am BST

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Wawrinka vs Nishikori tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – With the head-to-head poised at 4-4, who will win this Cincinnati Masters second-round battle?

Kei Nishikori vs Stan Wawrinka live streaming, preview and predictions for the Cincinnati Masters second-round match on Wednesday 15 August 2018: Wawrinka has built up some momentum in his comeback but can Nishikori snuff it out?

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