Japanese star Kei Nishikori claimed his first title since 2016 when he downed Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, in the final of the Brisbane International on Sunday.
The Japanese star had not won a tournament since Memphis in 2016 and was hampered by a wrist injury the following year which forced a break from the 2018 tour.
He was runner-up in Brisbane in 2017 but went one better this year in a superb final.
Nishikori dominated his Russian rival throughout, despite a slight hiccup when one poor service game cost him the second set.
The second seed started slowly and went down 0-3 to the Russian. But he recovered to break back and then seized the advantage at 3-3 when he broke Medvedev again, taking the first set in 42 minutes.
Kei Nishikori was all over the Russian in the second set, his powerful and well-directed groundstrokes forcing Medvedev into errors.
Medvedev held on against Nishikori’s multiple chances to break at 2-2 and 3-3 and took advantage of his opponent’s poor service game to break ahead.
“I felt like in the second set I was a little bit, like waiting too much and I couldn’t convert all the chances I had,” the Russian said.
“And he did really well the last game, I mean the 4-3 game. He took the risk and he did well and credit to him for second set.
“I had so many chances and I thought I could win in two sets.”
Any thought Medvedev would take the momentum into the decider proved wrong as Nishikori stormed to a 5-1 lead, eventually wrapping up the final in just over two hours.
“I realized I had to do something to win this match and I think I made a change really well,” he said. “I think I returned well — that was the biggest key, I think. I was able to return very deep and I think I put him under pressure.”
Nishikori said he was pleased with his form heading into the Australian Open, a tournament at which he has never progressed further than the quarterfinals.
“The main goal is to do well in Australian Open, but I’m really happy that I’ve been playing really well this week,” he said.
“Even if I lost today, I think I was very confident, and some of the matches I played some of the best (players).
“So, I’m happy to go in Melbourne, and I feel like it’s one of my favourite tournaments there.
“I feel like I have much support and feel almost home there so I hope I can do well better than quarterfinal.”