Kei Nishikori on Sunday made a stunning start to the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-4 6-4 win over Andy Murray, but fellow debutant Milos Raonic was put firmly in his place by Swiss maestro Roger Federer.
Asian trailblazer Nishikori walked on court amid the usual O2 Arena music and lights before dismantling home favorite Murray with some special effects of his own.
Canada’s Raonic, who like Nishikori is the first man from his nation to qualify for the ATP’s year-end showpiece, began horribly before improving as he lost 6-1, 7-6 (0) to six-time former champion Federer.
Federer and Nishikori are to meet in Group B today when Murray and Raonic battle to stay afloat in the round-robin event.
The 24-year-old Nishikori admitted he tried not to look up into the soaring stands at the 17,000 sell-out London venue in a nervous start against Murray, who qualified for the seventh year in succession after a three-title burst since September.
However, once the US Open runner-up settled he led former Wimbledon champion Murray and even a late rally, when the tenacious Scot battled back from 4-1 down in the second set to 4-4, failed to knock Nishikori off track as he closed out an impressive victory.
“The stadium is huge. I tried not to look up too much because there was too many people on the top,” the world No. 5 told reporters.
“Maybe when I walked into the stadium, I was nervous, but at the same time I was really excited to play with this crowd. I was really happy that I played good tennis on this situation,” he said.
Federer needed only 25 minutes to take the opening set against Raonic. Despite the Canadian’s first serve thundering toward him regularly at over 225kph, the Swiss was unflustered as he twice pocketed Raonic’s service games en route to winning the match.
World No. 4 Petra Kvitova sealed the Fed Cup title for the Czech Republic with a thrilling win over Germany’s Angelique Kerber on Sunday, giving her country its third success in the past four years at the premier team tournament in women’s tennis.
Kvitova pumped her fist and danced with her teammates after outlasting the 10th-ranked German 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in a fluctuating three-hour match.
“I am just glad I did it,” Kvitova said after adding to her haul of three WTA titles this year. “It was a big fight for every single point.”
The win gave the Czech team an unbeatable 3-0 lead over Germany, who were in their first final since Steffi Graf led them to the 1992 title.
The Czech Republic have now won the Fed Cup eight times, including as Czechoslovakia.
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