Nishikori confident in downing Djokovic for Miami title
Kei Nishikori enters Sunday’s ATP Miami Open final confident he can break a five-match losing streak to top-ranked Novak Djokovic and dethrone the two-time defending champion.
The 26-year-old Japanese sixth seed has dropped six of eight meetings with Djokovic, who will try to match Andre Agassi’s career record with a sixth Miami crown.
But Nishikori has been impressive on the Florida hardcourts, saving five match points to subdue French 16th seed Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals and dispatching other foes in straight sets, including Australian 20-year-old Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals.
“I’ve been playing well. I’m not surprised I’m in the final,” Nishikori said. “If I can maintain this tennis, I think I have a chance to win the title.”
“I have confidence to play him. If I can be aggressive and play (well), I have a chance. I have to play 100 percent or 120 percent to have a chance to beat him, but I will try my best.”
Djokovic, an 11-time Grand Slam champion, has won titles this year at Doha, Indian Wells and the Australian Open, where he ousted Nishikori in the semi-finals.
“He’s at another level right now,” said Nishikori of Djokovic. “He doesn’t have much weakness. He’s very patient. He doesn’t give you any free points.
“I have to focus almost every point if I want to beat him. That’s the toughest thing against him. And he has been serving well. I have to return well, serve well — everything has to be there to beat him.”
Djokovic has won 15th Miami matches and 29 of his past 30 overall. He’s 27-1 this season and seeking his 63rd career title, plus a record 28th ATP Masters crown to surpass the mark he now shares with Rafael Nadal.
The 28-year-old Serbian also could sweep the Miami-Indian Wells double for the third year in a row.
“He’s playing really good tennis. It’s going to be tough,” Nishikori said. “I’m not going to do something crazy. I’m playing good. If I can maintain this, I have some chance.
“He has beaten me many times but every time is a different situation. I’ve been playing well. Physically I’m in good condition. I have nothing to lose playing against him. I’ll try something different and we’ll see what happens in the final.”
Nishikori, who won his fourth consecutive Memphis title in February, has reached only his second ATP Masters final, the other coming in 2014 at Madrid.
“He does look very composed on the court so I don’t think he’s going to feel any much different because we’ve played against each other so many times,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic, who would own all four Grand Slam crowns if he wins the French Open final in June, has reached five of the past six US Open finals, but he was denied in 2014 when Nishikori beat him in a semi-final before falling to Marin Cilic in the final.
“He is somebody that has been around and played so many matches on the big stage,” Djokovic said of Nishikori. “I don’t see him being too overwhelmed or nervous.”
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