Opening Wins for Nadal, Nishikori @CoupeRogers Montreal
Leich Sinha for Tennis Atlantic
MONTREAL, August 12, 2015– To the delight of the partisan crowd today and to the surprise of absolutely no one, Nadal won his match in straights. To anyone who’s been carefully attuned to his progression this year, today’s match did little to assuage doubts about his resurgence and raises further questions about his ability to perform against elite opposition.
The matchup was not an ideal one for the former nine-time French Open champion lest he needed to play himself into form, having only had a week to prepare for the hard court season after a successful title run on the clay courts of Hamburg. Stakhovsky, a purveyor of the serve and volley style, was not a foe likely to hang in long rallies and for most of the first set, both traded terse 2-3 shot blows. A double fault in the seventh game of the match allowed Nadal to serve for the set at 6-4 but as has uncharacteristically been his wont this year, he failed to close out the set and the match went into a tiebreak where Nadal hung onto an early mini break to earn the set.
The second set showed flashes of the old Nadal with blistering passing shot winners and an agreeable winner to error ratio, but again, match tightness reared its ugly head again and Nadal squandered an opportunity to close out the match on his serve after being up a two break lead. However, Stakhovsky was never an opponent who could trouble Nadal on this surface and Nadal is certainly good at this winning business. It was a good overall performance by the Spaniard, but certainly not a statement. He next faces Mikhail Youzhny who scored a shockingly lopsided victory against France’s Gilles Simon.
Nadal d. Stakhovsky 7-6(4), 6-3
Nishikori vs. Andujar
A late start on court caused by an onslaught of inclement weather did nothing to abate the haste with which the newly-minted World Number 4 would dispatch of this year’s Barcelona open finalist at Centre Court this afternoon. Employing his trademark compact swing and early ball striking to chop down Andujar’s baseline game, the match served as a near master study in clinical Euclidean ball placement. The afternoon started off precipitously enough for the Japanese star when a double fault in the first game handed him an early break lead. After consolidating the lead, he would commit an untimely double fault of his own on his second service game and gift back the break to Andujar. This proved to be the only minor blip of Kei’s afternoon, as Nishikori would thereafter go on to break Andujar’s serve twice more in the set, including in the final game when Andujar mistimed a backhand slice that never sailed past the net. Andujar, for his part, held his own in rallies, often matching Nishikori’s power and consistency, while hitting exquisite drop volleys when the situation arose. Andujar was mostly undone by a combination of weak serving and an inability to adapt to the pace imposed by Nishikori. Moreover, Nishikori’s second to none twitch muscle reflex and quick thinking caused constant fits to Andujar’s serve. The quality of his return game was best exemplified early in the 2nd set when he pummelled Andujar’s second serve with a deep return that would eventually find its way just short of the baseline giving him the early break, from which point he would never look back.
In general, both players were very successful on net approaches and it’s these approaches that produced the most entertaining moments of the match, including an exchange early in the second set which culminated in a sequence of volleys from Andujar that bore shades of Sampras. Nishikori would earn the victory on his third match point when a return was sent long and will face David Goffin next who won in straight sets against American Sam Querrey.
Nishikori d. Andujar 6-3, 6-3