Milos Raonic will meet home favorite Kei Nishikori in the final of the Japan Open after ousting U.S. Open champion Andy Murray in a thrilling semifinal match.
Raonic and Nishikori will have a chance to show what they are made of and give tennis fans a glimpse at up-and-coming talent that might go on to challenge the players who have dominated the game for nearly 10 years.
Raonic, the big-serving 21-year-old Canadian, showed off the attacking side of his game against Murray when he came up with some sublime shots at the net that left the world No. 3 without an answer.
Broken only once so far in the tournament, Raonic’s serve continues to be a weapon of the highest order. Raonic leads the tour this year in both service games won (93 percent) and first-serve points won (83 percent).
Raonic showed a steely composure when he saved two match points in the third set against Murray, taking it to a tiebreaker, which he was able to dominate. His composure and consistency shone through.
With his emotions under control, his service game equal to the best playing and his returning game and movement improving, he is proving he can be a threat to the top players.
In the final, Nishikori will have the home crowd behind him. It is the first time ever a Japanese player will appear in the final in its 40-year history. The country will be watching, and the atmosphere in the stands will be electric.
The 22-year-old Nishikori is No. 17 in world rankings and has long been seen as a rising star and an all-around player known for his speed and stamina. This will be Nishikori’s second title if he wins. He showed early promise in 2008 by taking the top prize at Delray Beach as a qualifier.
Raonic is ranked No. 15 and has three titles.
After coming back from injuries, Nishikori's career is on an upswing with a good showing at the Australian Open, where he beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the quarterfinals, losing there to Andy Murray. At the Olympics, he also reached the quarterfinals, where he met bronze-medal winner Juan Martin del Potro.
In his Tokyo semifinal, Nishikori put away Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 6-2 in a one-sided contest. On the way to that win, he maneuvered a stunning straight-set victory over No. 2 seed Tomas Berdych by playing aggressive, fast-paced tennis, sending back whatever Berdych came up with.
Afterward, Berdych compared him to Andre Agassi. Quick-returning play could work well against Raonic’s big first serve as the two players face each other for the first time.
With Raonic coming off of the biggest win of his career with a dazzling performance in the semifinal, and Nishikori playing at his best and backed by the home crowd, it should prove to be an exciting match.
Stats courtesy of ATP.