Kei Nishikori remained one of the hottest players this fall. The 24-year-old made the US Open finals last month, then won Kuala Lumpur and today added a second career title in Tokyo, edging rival Milos Raonic 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.
“He was serving really well, with a lot of aces,” said Nishikori who also beat Raonic in the 2012 Tokyo final. “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.
“It’s the first time I have won a title two weeks in a row. After the US Open, it was hard to maintain my motivation. I had to stay strong and focused, especially this week when I wasn’t feeling 100%.
“Michael has raised my level. We have practised more on the court and also physical work. Beating a few Top 10 guys over the past year has helped my confidence.”
Nishikori has now won his last nine matches and 15 of his last 16 losing only to Marin Cilic in the US Open final. And the result solidifies his chances of qualifying for London.
“I hope to get to London,” said Nishikori. “I am getting close, but there are two more Masters 1000s and 500s left. These next few weeks will be really important for me.”
Raonic, who also has his sights on London, finished runner-up in Tokyo for a third straight year.
“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.”
Both players will head to Shanghai.
“I am playing at a really high level,” Raonic said. “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.”
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