Japan's Kei Nishikori will attempt to defend his title at the 2014 U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships, which is a men's-only event that takes place between Feb. 10-16 at the Racquet Club of Memphis in Tennessee.
As the top seed, Nishikori earned a first-round bye in the 28-man singles field, along with Feliciano Lopez, Lleyton Hewitt (former world No. 1) and Yen-Hsun Lu.
A minor tournament on the ATP's schedule, the event offers a chance for young players to make a name for themselves. This year's purse comes in at $568,805 for the singles tourney, per ATPWorldTour.com, which isn't large compared to the bigger events on the schedule.
Past champions include Andy Roddick (2002, 2009 and 2011), Tommy Haas (1999, 2006-07) and even the great Pete Sampras (1996).
Please continue reading for daily results and a look at the upcoming schedule.
Kei Nishikori captured his second-straight U.S. Indoor Tennis championship with a 6-4, 7-6 (6-0) straight-set win over Ivo Karlovic. After enjoying a semifinal romp over Lu Yen-Hsun before the latter retired after the first set, Karlovic found the going much tougher against Nishikori.
Freelance tennis writer Matt Miller gives the info on the quick tiebreaker.
Nishikori's class shines through. He bagels Karlovic in the 2nd-set tiebreak to win the ATP tourney in Memphis for the 2nd straight year.— Matt Miller (@MattMiller713) February 16, 2014
The towering 6'11" Karlovic made Nishikori work for the win in the second set. However, once it went to the tiebreaker, it was all Nishikori.
The champ poses with the trophy for the second year in a row in this tweet from Tennis TV.
Karlovic deserves a ton of credit for advancing this far in the tournament, though. He came in as the 30th seed and fought his way to the finals.
Using his power and incredible length, he gave opponents in Memphis fits before Sunday. The 34-year-old won just one tournament in 2013, but perhaps he may be on his way to having a stronger 2014.
As for the champion, he's playing the best tennis of his life. Not only did the 24-year-old from Japan defend his title, he also continued the momentum he began at the beginning of the season. Nishikori reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open.
He was beaten by Rafael Nadal, but he pushed Rafa to tiebreakers in two of the three sets.
Things are looking up for him after this win. The 2014 season could wind up being a breakout campaign for him. Stay tuned.
|Kei Nishikori||Michael Russell||6-3, 6-2|
|Ivo Karlovic||Lu Yen-Hsun||6-1, Ret.|
Kei Nishikori won his third-career ATP Tour title at this event last year, and he seems primed to defend that title after ousting American Michael Russell in straight sets.
Nishikori told Teresa M. Walker of the Associated Press (via the Miami Herald) what it feels like to get the chance to defend the title: "It's almost there. Especially, like today I was playing good tennis and more confidence coming. It's going to be a tough opponent."
His opponent will be Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
Karlovic's semifinals opponent, Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan, had to retire after one set on Sunday because of a neck injury. Karlovic had taken that opening set, 6-1.
Lu was allegedly eating breakfast on Saturday, Feb. 15 when he felt something strange in his neck. He claimed something "locked up on him," reports Walker (via ABC News). The treatments he received to loosen his neck back up again were apparently not enough to keep him in the match.
Nishikori and Karlovic will square off in the finals on Sunday, Feb. 16 at The Racquet Club.
|Alex Kuznetsov||Mikhail Kukushkin||2-6, 6-3, 7-6|
|Lu Yen-Hsun||Denis Kudla||3-6, 6-3, 6-3|
|Lleyton Hewitt||Marcos Baghdatis||1-6, 6-2, 6-0|
|Ivo Karlovic||Feliciano Lopez||7-6 (2), 6-4|
American Alex Kuznetsov shook off a poor first set against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin to pull the upset win (2-6, 6-3, 7-6). Kuznetsov advanced to the third round of the tournament with the victory.
He came in unseeded, but knocking off the eighth-seeded Kukushkin is a major victory.
Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun continued his career-best start in the second match with a win over Denis Kudla of the United States. Lu entered as the No. 4 seed after starting the season with just two losses and reaching his first ATP Tour final a month again in Auckland.
Lu must now turn his attention to Kuznetsov in the quarterfinals, who won the day's opening match.
Lleyton Hewitt of Australia is through to the quarterfinals to take on America's Michael Russell on Day 5 after overcoming an early surge by Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus. Baghdatis hit four aces to open the match, but Hewitt was able to bounce back and secure the win.
Hewitt told reporters after the match about his respect for Baghdatis and his struggles early, according to USA Today, via the Associated Press:
Marcos, he's always a tough competitor, and I think on this style of court suits his style of game as well. He hits the ball hard and flat out there, and if he's making a lot of first serves it's not easy. I just sort of bide my time out there and took my chances. Had to fight hard early in the second set to hold serve and got a bit of momentum after that.
The final match of the day served up a massive upset as No. 2 seed and returning finalist Feliciano Lopez of Spain was upended by Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. It was the first meeting between the two competitors in six years, and the Spainard saw 19 aces go past en route to the humbling defeat. Ivo Karlovic advances to face American Jack Sock on Day 5.
|Michael Russell||Tim Smyczek||6-2, 7-6(5)|
|Denis Kudla||Donald Young||6-1, 6-1|
|Jack Sock||Jiri Vesely||6-2, 6-1|
|Alex Bogomolov Jr.||Ryan Harrison||6-3, 2-6, 6-2|
|Kei Nishikori||Benjamin Becker||6-4, 6-4|
The afternoon session on Day 3 of the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships featured four American contenders in action. In Wednesday's opening match, Michael Russell defeated Tim Smyczek in straight sets, surviving in a second-set tiebreak.
Both players would squander four break point chances, but it was Russell's ability to exploit Smyczek's second serve that proved the biggest difference in the end.
In the second showdown, Donald Young was blasted off the court by qualifier Denis Kudla, who broke Young five times and won 62 of 96 total points. The match would last just one hour.
Donald Young picking up right where he left off against Andy Murray. Bad early against Denis Kudla. He's kinda due for a major slump— Baseline Bagels (@BaselineBagels) February 12, 2014
The result was awfully surprising considering Young had beaten Kudla in each of their previous five meetings.
The third match of the day saw American Jack Sock take down Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in a short affair that lasted just north of an hour. It was an impressive showing from Sock to say the least, who is the youngest American in the in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
After the quick rout, the next match was a longer affair that saw Russia's Alex Bogomolov Jr. move past America's Ryan Harrison in a little under two hours:
Ex-American Alex Bogomolov of Russia follows up defeat of Querrey by beating Ryan Harrison in 2R at Memphis 63 26 62. #atp— Douglas Robson (@dougrobson) February 13, 2014
As USA Today's Douglas Robson hints above, Bogomolov Jr. is on quite the impressive run. He kept his strong form alive against Harrison by saving 9-of-12 break points and cashing on on 4-of-7 chances of his own.
Bogomolov Jr.'s next test is not as simple, as he has a date with the tournament's No. 1 seed.
Kei Nishikori of Japan, the No. 1 seed and defending champ, took down Germany's Benjamin Becker in his opening match.
Nishikori shook off some apparent rust in the early goings, as his serve was erratic and he was surprisingly broke twice after going up 3-1 initially. After the slight disappointment to start, Nishikori regained form and breezed through the rest of the match to set up a bout with Bogomolov Jr. in the next round.
|Ivo Karlovic||Matthew Ebden||7-5, 6-4|
|Benjamin Becker||Lukas Lacko||6-3, 6-2|
|Marcos Baghdatis||Rajeev Ram||6-3, 6-4|
|Mikhail Kukushkin (8)||Teymuraz Gabashvili||7-6(9), 7-5|
|Alex Kuznetsov||David Goffin||6-4, 6-3|
|Jack Sock||Adrian Mannarino||7-5, 1-6, 7-6(5)|
|Ryan Harrison||Bjorn Phau||6-3, 6-4|
*Full results and Day 3 schedule available at ATPWorldTour.com.
Singles action on Day 2 of the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis was intense. However, most of the matches were one-sided as only one of the day's first six matches went the distance.
Eighth-seeded Mikhail Kukushkin and Teymuraz Gabashvili played the most dramatic match by far on Day 2, going back and forth in a nerve-racking first-set tiebreak that the Kazakh would eventually survive 11-9. Despite the gut-wrenching loss in the extra session, Gabashvili was able to get back up for the second set, demonstrating tremendous fight in the 7-5 defeat.
Americans Alex Kuznetsov, Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock were also victorious on Tuesday, securing second-round berths.
Both Kuznetsov and Harrison would prevail in straight sets.
Sock, though, would need all three sets to survive Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. But as The Tennis Geek on Twitter points out, the 21-year-old certainly didn't make it easy for himself:
Jack Sock has a chance to close out the 3rd set on his serve but gives up the break. He now leads 5-4 with Mannarino serving #Memphistennis— The Tennis Geek (@Thetennisgeek) February 11, 2014
American qualifier Rajeev Ram wasn't quite as fortunate as Sock, though, as he was ousted in straight sets by 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis laid down 10 aces in the impressive victory.
Unseeded European veterans Ivo Karlovic and Benjamin Becker are headed to Round 2 as well. The 6'11" Karlovic will match up with second-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez next while Becker will gear up for a challenging showdown with overall top seed Kei Nishikori.
|Michael Russell||Michal Przysiezny||3-6, 6-3, 6-1|
|Jiri Vesely||Marinko Matosevic||6-3, 6-2|
||Nick Kyrgios||6(5)-7, 6-4, 6-3|
|David Goffin||James McGee||
* 6-1, 7-5
|Denis Kudla||Gastao Elias||* 7-6(1), 6-4|
|Alex Kuznetsov||Bobby Reynolds||* 6-3, 7-5|
|Rajeev Ram||Victor Estrella Burgos||* 6-3, 6(1)-7, 6-4|
|Ryan Harrison & Sam Querrey||Benjamin Becker & Yen-Hsun Lu||7-5, 1-6, 10-4|
|Eric Butorac & Raven Klaasen||Jack Sock & Donald Young||7-6(4), 6-4|
Note: * denotes qualifying matches. Full Results and both draws available at ATPWorldTour.com.
After some early qualifiers concluded, the 2014 U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships started on Monday with three singles matches and two doubles matches.
Michael Russell outlasted Michal Przysiezny in three sets to advance to Round 2. The match lasted nearly two hours, but Russell clawed his way back after dropping the first set in impressive style. He made Przysiezny pay for his nine double faults and won half of his break opportunities.
Jiri Vesely didn't need nearly as much time to take down Marinko Matosevic, winning his first-round match easily in straight sets. As alluded to by Tennis Aces, it was an unexpected result, as Matosevic was the No. 5 seed at this tournament:
Czech Jiri Vesely knocked out fifth-seeded Australian Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 6-2 to kick off main draw action on... http://t.co/bsOVvuSxmh— Tennis Aces (@MurrayMatters) February 11, 2014
Later in the evening, Tim Smyczek followed in Russell's footsteps, overcoming a first-set loss to win his match against Nick Kyrgios in three sets to close out the action for the night.
The tournament will commence in earnest on Tuesday, when many of the rest of the competitors will taste their first action.
|Stadium Start @ 11 a.m. ET|
|Matthew Ebden||vs.||Ivo Karlovic|
|Marcos Baghdatis||vs.||Rajeev Ram|
|Jack Sock||vs.||Adrian Mannarino|
|Bjorn Phau||vs.||Ryan Harrison|
|Tomasz Bednarek & Ivo Karlovic||vs.||Chris Guccione & Lleyton Hewitt|
|Alex Bogomolov Jr.||vs.||Sam Querrey|
|Grandstand Start @ 11 a.m. ET|
|Mikhail Kukushkin||vs.||Teymuraz Gabashvili|
|Lukas Lacko||vs.||Benjamin Becker|
|Alex Kuznetsov||vs.||David Goffin|
|Frantisek Cermak & Mikhail Elgin
Samuel Groth & Max Mirnyi