Kei Nishikori and John Isner contested a close three-set battle for the Citi Open title in Washington, D.C.
At the 2014 U.S. Open, surprise finalists Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic met for the title. Based on his 5-2 record against his opponent, Nishikori was considered the favorite, but instead Cilic routed him in straight sets.
Nishikori rebounded from that to win two titles before the year’s end, and in the first half of 2015, captured another pair. Playing his first tournament of the summer hard-court season leading up to the U.S. Open, Nishikori reached the final at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Along the way, he was able to exact a measure of revenge against Cilic in the semifinals, rallying to beat the Croat in three sets.
Waiting for Nishikori in the final would be another big server, John Isner. The American, fresh off a title in Atlanta, reached his third career championship match in Washington, having survived his own three-set semifinal against compatriot Steve Johnson.
Going into the match, it would be a battle to see if Nishikori’s strong return game and pinpoint groundstrokes could hold up against Isner’s devastating serve and power from the baseline. In their first-ever encounter in Miami earlier in the year, Isner beat Nishikori in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Throughout the bulk of the first set here, the two remained on even ground until Isner broke Nishikori at 4-5 behind two massive forehand returns to claim the first set.
In the second set, Nishikori immediately turned the tables on the American by breaking right back. The world No. 5 then consolidated, and that would turn out to be all the advantage he needed as he proved to be impenetrable on his own serve. Nishikori would go on to take the second 6-4 to level the match.
The decider was a near-mirror image of the second set as Nishikori broke early to take a 2-1 lead. From there, the Japanese star continued to play solidly on his own service games, with Isner unable to mount a challenge. Up 5-4, Nishikori clinched the championship when Isner hit a forehand into the net on match point, for his 10th career title and third of the year.
This was the fifth consecutive year Isner reached a summer hard-court final.
Nishikori reached his eighth career ATP World Tour 500-level final. His Washington win brought his record to 6-2 in those championship matches.
The last year a player won the title without being among the top two seeds was in 2011, when unseeded Radek Stepanek beat the top seed, Gael Monfils, in the final.
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