In one of the most memorable finals in recent memory, Kei Nishikori defeated Milos Raonic in the deciding set to capture the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title, thus subsequently improving his chances at qualifying for the Barclays World Tour Finals in London.
Nishikori, who was coming off a title win the week prior in Kuala Lumpur, lifted the Tokyo title for a second time in his career with a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over the Canadian in a match that saw exceptional points from both for the entire two hours and 13 minute length of the contest.
“He was serving really well, with a lot of aces,” said Nishikori. “Luckily I got the first tie-break and that helped my motivation for the match. If I had lost the tie-break, I might have screwed up the whole match. He started aggressively and I think it was one of my toughest games against Milos. I am really happy to win. He had a lot of chances in the third set; he almost broke my serve a couple of times.”
Nishikori, currently sitting at No. 5 in the Race to London, is in a strong position to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals but is well aware of the final stretch of tournaments forthcoming.
“I hope to get to London,” said Nishikori. “I am getting close, but there are two more [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000s and 500s left. These next few weeks will be really important for me.”
Raonic, however, sits at No. 8 in the Race to London and is now a three-time consecutive runner-up in Tokyo.
“It is disappointing to lose in my third straight [Tokyo] final,” said Raonic. “To be honest with you, other than the first year  I felt I created my opportunities. Against Kei, he just played better when it came down to the third set [in 2012]. I have felt I have always been in the thick of things the past two years, so I would say two years ago was more disappointing.”
“I am playing at a really high level. Kei has, consistently over the past few weeks, also played at a high level. The match was high quality and I look forward to the next challenge in Shanghai. I need to turn up there with the right attitude and fight again.”
The two competitor will move on to the Shanghai Rolex Masters, which begins on Monday.