In the interest of living up to the momentum generated at the US Open, Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori is through to the final in his first post-New York tournament, where he will challenge Julien Benneteau to determine the rightful winner of the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. This marks the fourth time these two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with Nishikori leading the head to head series 2-1, with wins in their two most recent meetings.
For the first time this week, Kei Nishikori needed three sets to cement his spot in the tournament final, as he defeated Finnish Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 to set up the tournament culmination against the Frenchman. The Japanese No. 1 struck 8 aces, and converted 6 of 13 break points to close out the match in 1 hour and 37 minutes.
“Today was a little bit tough because he was playing well in the second set,” said Nishikori. “Maybe I relaxed a little bit. I had a couple of unforced errors in the last game of the second set. I tried to concentrate again and focus in the first couple of games in the third set. Everything worked well after that and I finished well, so I’m very happy.”
Known for his 0-9 losing streak in ATP World Tour finals, Julien Benneteau arrived at his 10th final this week following a 6-4, 6-4 upset over Ernests Gulbis in the semi-final round. The Frenchman did not face a single break ppoint on serve and withstood a total of 11 aces from Gulbis.
“I play well here,” said Benneteau. “I like the conditions and this year I think it’s a little bit faster. I’m very excited and happy the way I’m playing. I’ve given myself another chance to win a title.”
This marks the fourth time that Nishikori and Benneteau with meet on the ATP World Tour, but the first time this season. The only competitive encounter between these two took place at the Australian Open in 2012, where Nishikori won an exciting four set battle to reach the fourth round of the tournament. It will be interesting to see how competitive this encounter turns out to be.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Three Sets