Eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-0 yesterday to win the Japan Open, becoming the first Japanese player to win the tournament in its 41-year history.
The victory gave the 22-year-old Nishikori his second career ATP tour title and his first in more than four years.
Nishikori, ranked No. 17, put on a fine all-around display before a packed house at Ariake Colosseum to record the triumph against the sixth-seeded Raonic.
The Japanese lost just two games on serve against Raonic, who lacked the spark he showed on Saturday when he ousted top-seeded Andy Murray in the semi-finals. Raonic was undone by unforced errors in the loss.
Nishikori broke Raonic in the second game of the opening set, marking only the second time in 44 games in the tournament that Raonic had dropped a game on serve. Nishikori then held serve to go up 3-0.
Raonic responded by winning three straight games to level, including a break in the fifth game. The set then remained on serve until the tiebreaker.
Nishikori hit sharp forehands from the baseline throughout the set and also benefited from several mistakes by Raonic.
Nishikori squandered two set points while leading 6-5, as Raonic held on to force the tiebreaker.
After winning the first two points of the tiebreaker, Raonic came to the net and made it 3-0 with a volley. Nishikori replied with three straight points to even the score and made it seven of nine to take the tiebreaker.
Raonic was having trouble with his backhand returns and sent one long to give Nishikori the set 7-5.
Raonic had two break points in the second game of the second set, but could not capitalize as Nishikori held to make it 1-1.
The set went on serve until Raonic broke to move ahead 5-3 and took the set 6-3 when Nishikori sent a return of serve into the net.
Raonic found his rhythm in the second set and began to serve better, notching eight aces, just as Nishikori appeared to tire.
Nishikori broke Raonic go to up 2-0 in the final set with a nice backhand down the line. With his confidence growing, Nishikori began coming to the net more frequently.
After holding serve to go up 3-0, Nishikori rifled a two-hand backhand down the line to break for 4-0 and went on to close it out 6-0 with one more break.
Nishikori routed unseeded Marcos Baghdatis in straight sets on Saturday to book his place in the final. His previous victory on the ATP tour came in Delray Beach, Florida, in February 2008 when he was just 18.
Raonic had won two tournaments this year, triumphing in Chennai, India, and San Jose, California.