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Tour report - Nishikori the home hero in Tokyo

Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man to win the Japan Open
by Alexandra Willis
Monday 8 October 2012

Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka claimed the week's big prizes in Tokyo and Beijing. 

The builders of the Ariake Stadium in Tokyo must have feared for the stability of their structure on Saturday, as the roof was all but blown off in response to Kei Nishikori's remarkable run to the title. The Japanese prodigy, the first Japanese man to win a title in Asia since Matsuoka in 1982, and the first Japanese man to win the Tokyo title.

Beating Milos Raonic, another one to watch, 7-6, 3-6, 6-0 with tennis that had the fans raucously cheering his every running passing shot, it was only Nishikori's second career title, having won Delray Beach in 2008. Leaping up to No.15 in the world as a result, the 22-year-old is no longer just a might-be. 

“I have not been able to play well in Japan until now, so I always thought perhaps I was not mentally strong enough to do so,” Nishikori said. “But the match against Berdych, something changed. I was able to play much better yesterday and today as well. On one side of my mind, I cannot believe I won the tournament, but at the same time, I feel that I’m happy I was able to do this.”

“He just played too well. There’s not too much I could do,” Raonic said, comically taking the time to thank Japan for inventing sushi. “He played better than me and deserved to win. [In the third set], he started playing well, was reading me a bit more, and a few mistakes starting coming from me.”

Across the Yellow Sea, in Beijing, Novak Djokovic celebrated his third title in the Chinese capital with a rendition of the infamous Gangam Style on Beijing's centre court. 

The top seed took an hour and 42 minutes to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 6-2 for his 32nd career title and 40th hard court match win of the season.

“It's been one of my most successful tournaments," Djokovic said. "This is where I love to play. I love the conditions and, as I mentioned before, I have lots of support from the fans who are very loyal and very nice."

“I think the first set was really even, and maybe a couple points decided the winner there," he continued. "We both had our chances aside those breaks that we converted…I managed to hold my nerves in the end. When you're getting to the second set with the set advantage, mentally it is much more encouraging for you and then you try to play on that confidence run that you have. I made that early break in the second [and] I felt much more comfortable on the court.”

In the women's event, Victoria Azarenka picked up her first title since Indian Wells this March, swooping past Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-1. With 14 unforced errors to Sharapova's 39, Azarenka was in cheery spirits as she lifted her 13th WTA trophy. 

"I was doing the right things, making sure I didn't let Maria play the game she likes, always being in control and dominating," Azarenka said. "Of course it wasn't possible for me to do that every single point, but for the most part I was trying to keep up with her rhythm, and when I had the chance just try to step it up and be in control myself. I tried to take that opportunity and move forward.

"As for her mistakes, I'm not really looking for them, but I'm looking to provoke them, looking to make them happen. She's not just going to stay there and miss - it's something maybe I've done to make her miss those balls.

"To win the China Open is a dream for me, because I've never been able to do so well here - so to overcome that and win such a big title at the end of the year is just incredible. I'm really happy I came and I conquered here."

With the tours ramping up towards their respective conclusions, the men are in Shanghai this week as Roger Federer returns to action for the first time since the US Open, and the women are playing in Osaka and Linz. 

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