Three-time defending champion Nishikori moves into Memphis final


Kei Nishikori overcame a slow start to beat 58th-ranked American Sam Querrey in a three-set semifinal on Saturday, keeping alive his hopes of winning a fourth consecutive Memphis Open title.

The Japanese world No. 7 had won four of the previous seven matchups between the two, and three in a row, but made hard work of a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory at a tournament where he has now won 16 straight matches over the past four years.

“It was a tough match,” Nishikori said. “I had a difficult time in the first set with his shots deep to the baseline. In the second set, I started to find my rhythm and hit some pretty good shots myself.”

The first set saw both players having to battle on their serve, with the 198-cm, 28-year-old Querrey doing the better job of it, saving all three break points he faced.

Nishikori, however, dropped his serve once and it was enough to see him lose the set.

The Shimane Prefecture native got off to a much better start in the second set, piling on the pressure to get an early break and go 3-0 up. He managed to maintain that lead for the rest of the set, winning it to force a decider.

The final set got off to much the same start as the second with Nishikori getting an early break. He faced a break point in the seventh game, but managed to hold his nerve to serve out the game and then break Querrey’s next serve to reach the final.

Nishikori will next face another American, 18-year-old wild card and world No. 145 Taylor Fritz, who beat Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in their semifinal.

Nishikori has yet to face Fritz on the world tour.