MEMPHIS (AP) — Kei Nishikori of Japan won his third career title and second since October, beating Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-2, 6-3 in the U.S. National Indoor Championships on Sunday.
Nishikori needed only 67 minutes to improve to 3-2 in finals. He won his first career title in Delray Beach in 2008.
Seeded fifth, Nishikori was the only seed to reach the weekend. The 23-year-old finished the tournament without dropping a set in taking the $291,800 winner’s check, and he is expected to move from No. 22 in the ATP rankings to No. 16. He’s 11-2 this year.
Lopez, who beat Nishikori in April 2011 in Barcelona on clay, was looking for his own third career ATP title and first since Johannesburg in February 2010. At 31, Lopez was playing in his eighth career final with a chance to become the oldest player on tour this season to win. A victory would have moved him into the top 30 in rankings from No. 47 at the start of this week.
The Spaniard led the tournament with 38 aces, including eight in the final. But he also had three double-faults.
Nishikori broke Lopez twice in the Spaniard’s first three service games to go up 4-1 in the first set. Nishikori also broke him again to start the second, even though Lopez pushed the game to deuce and even had the advantage. Lopez couldn’t close it out, and Nishikori got the advantage back with a forehand down the line and then a backhand passing shot.
Lopez tried to rally in the second game in his best chance to break Nishikori, jumping out to a 40-0 lead off the Japanese’s serve. Then Lopez hit a couple forehands long, and he lost a challenge that a Nishikori shot had been long only to have replay show it touched the back edge of the line for deuce. Nishikori won the next two points to go up 2-0.
Then Nishikori finished off the match efficiently serving out before breaking Lopez one last time for the title. Lopez came to the net, and Nishikori answered with a backhand passing shot to reach 15-40. Lopez had a cross court winner, then hit a backhand that went wide.
Nishikori saw the ball going wide, dropped the racket and raised his arms in celebration.