LONDON – In a match between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, big-serving Milos Raonic defeated Kei Nishikori on Tuesday, ending the No. 10 seed’s Wimbledon run in the fourth round.
After making a strong start to capture the first set, Nishikori was blasted away by Raonic’s explosive serve and pounding forehand with the Canadian producing 35 aces and 66 winners to win the match 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
“I felt like I tried everything but I just couldn’t do anything against his serve,” said a frustrated Nishikori.
“I only really had a chance to return his serve in the first game and even then I think I got lucky. He was smart and varied his serve well.
“His strokes were aggressive too and he attacked my serve which wasn’t at its best today.”
Nishikori was bidding to become the first Japanese men’s singles player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995.
“I’m frustrated that I lost today,” said Nishikori. “I want to go further next year.”
The match began with Raonic looking out of sorts. Nishikori quickly broke Raonic’s opening game with the No. 8 seed making numerous errors while Nishikori stayed patient, allowing the Canadian to play his way out of rallies. The Japanese star wrapped up the first set 6-4 as another of Raonic’s ground strokes sailed long.
The 196-cm Raonic came storming back in the second set with his cannon-like serve coming to the forefront. Nishikori was often barely able to get a racket onto Raonic’s serve which hit speeds of over 220 kph.
The Canadian’s ground strokes also improved while Nishikori’s backhand started to falter. Having broken the Nishikori serve twice, Raonic closed out the set with yet another ace to even out the match at one set all.
“I think I let him get momentum in the second game of the second set. I missed some easy shots,” Nishikori admitted.
Nishikori continued to struggle as Raonic went from strength to strength, but the Japanese star hung in to send the third set to a tiebreak.
Nishikori had his chances in the tiebreak but missed a golden opportunity at 2-3 down, followed by a wide backhand at 2-5 which swung the momentum in Raonic’s favor.
At 4-6 and set point to Raonic, Nishikori managed to get hold of a Raonic serve but his return sailed long and Nishikori threw his racket to the ground in frustration.
A somewhat deflated Nishikori managed to hold his serve in the fourth set until Raonic found an opening at 4-3. At 0-40 down, Nishikori saved two break points but sent a wild forehand wide to give his opponent a crucial break.
Raonic’s serve finally wavered at 5-3, allowing Nishikori an improbable opportunity to break, but he was unable to capitalize and Raonic closed out the match with a simple serve and volley.
“(After the first game) I started finding a rhythm, so I sort of calmed down pretty quickly,” said a composed Raonic.
“I’ve been serving well in general at this tournament, and even throughout the clay court season.
“That’s helping me, taking a lot of pressure off me and putting more so on my opponents.”
Raonic has now reached the quarterfinals of two Grand Slams in a row having also reached the last eight at the French Open last month.
He is also the first Canadian men’s singles player to reach this stage of Wimbledon in 102 years, but Raonic played down the importance of his historic achievement.
“Unfortunately, to this point there hasn’t been as much Canadian success, especially on the singles side in the men’s. It’s about really trying to become the best player in the world,” he said.
He now faces Australian Nick Kyrgios, who defeated two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in the round of 16.
Nishikori posted his best ever performance at Wimbledon, but will have to wait another year to attempt to try and match Matsuoka’s aforementioned run to the quarterfinals.
Nishikori was cautiously optimistic about his prospects at the next Grand Slam on the schedule saying, “It depends on the draw but I think I can make the last eight (at the U.S. Open).”