One more time
Novak Djokovic vs. Kei Nishikori
Novak Djokovic leads their head-to-head series 9-2 and has won all 4 of their 2016 meetings (2 on clay and 2 on hard courts) winning 9 of 10 sets. Is there any reason to think Kei Nishikori can win this match?
Yes. Novak’s serve has seemed a bit off this week in Canada. Kei has a great return of serve. That alone gives Kei a chance to win this match. Beyond that, Kei’s worst showing versus Novak in 2016 was at the Australian Open since then they have played a lot of very competitive tennis. Novak won 6 of 7 sets in the subsequent 3 matches, but the sets were close and Kei took a set in their most recent tilt.
Novak took an unexpected loss at Wimbledon and questions about his health emerged. Those questions have centered on his right elbow and/or shoulder. Some practice footage in Toronto seemed to suggest that these health concerns may have merit. Djokovic can and should beat Nishikori if he is healthy. That is what is expected of one of the greatest hard court players of all time even against a strong opponent.
I don’t think either player will do anything unexpected on court tomorrow. Both players can hug the baseline and rob time from an opponent. Novak is better than Kei and everyone else on tour at stealing points with outrageous defensive skills. Both players return serve well. Novak’s serve is generally stronger than Kei’s (again presuming his right arm is healthy). That all adds up to my prediction.
My Prediction: Novak Djokovic d. Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-3
Confidence in my pick: Moderate – If Novak is healthy, he should win (especially on this surface). If not, Kei’s return may make for a long day.