Unheralded Teen Nishikori Beats Blake for ATP Delray Beach Title

Posted on February 17, 2008

Teenage qualifier Kei Nishikori, a Florida resident at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, followed up a stunning win from four match points down in the semifinals to Sam Querrery, on Sunday stunning top seed James Blake from a set down 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 for his first ATP title in only his sixth event.

Nishikori became the first Japanese ATP title winner in almost 16 years, and at 18 years, 1 month, 19 days old is the youngest player to win an ATP title since Lleyton Hewitt in 1998.
In his first ATP-level event of the year, Nishikori saved three break points in the second game of the third set, then broke Blake in the next game and held to love for a 3-1 lead, serving out the match at 5-4.

"Last night I tried to imagine winning the final, but I couldn't do it," Nishikori said. "I was so nervous in the first set. During the second set I started to feel more confident. This is the best tournament in my life. I am so happy right now. I played eight matches in nine days but I didn't feel tired."

Last year Nishikori was 3-5 in five ATP-level tournaments, but after his Delray Beach win will rise in to the Top 125 on the ATP Rankings.

"He played really well and didn't show any kind of nerves," Blake said. "I didn't feel like I returned as well as I had in past matches. [Only getting] one break in a three-set match says a lot on my part. I felt he'd be carefree and play like he had nothing to lose. After you save four match points in the semis you are playing with house money. He hit cold winners at times you wouldn't expect them. It's disappointing to get this far in and lose, but I played well during the tournament."