It was the fifth game of the second set that gave a true feel of how the semi-final match between defending men’s singles champion Andy Murray and the fourth seed Kei Nishikori was going on at the Rio Olympics 2016 on Saturday.
The Japanese had the entire court open with Murray at the net and yet his shot landed in the tramlines.
The look on Nishikori’s face after that horrendous miss summed up his day.
The former US Open runner-up was broken to love in that game, to go down 2-3 and would eventually lose the match, 1-6, 4-6.
The statistics tell it all. The Japanese was broken a total of 3 times, while the reigning Wimbledon champion did not drop his serve even once. Murray’s first serve percentage was at 76%, in contrast Nishikori could only muster 60%.
The unforced errors count is what did Nishikori in – his racquet peppered 23 of them whereas Murray kept it low at only 15.
Riding high on his second Wimbledon title just a few weeks back, the Briton looked very solid and determined to get a chance to grab another gold medal for his country. The 29-year-old also handled the conditions far better than his 26-year-old rival.
The Japanese looked jaded and totally clueless about how to rein in his illustrious opponent on the other side of the net. He could not find any answer at all.
In the first set, the three-time Grand Slam champion broke for a 3-1 lead as Nishikori’s usually reliable backhand failed to produce any fire. Nishikori then botched up an easy overhead to go down another break in the opening set.
It was a matter of a few minutes before the second seed wrapped up the first set 6-1.
It was the same scenario in the next set even though Nishikori kept it competitive till 2-2. After the aforementioned game where he went down a break, the Japanese could hardly find any inspiration as Murray comfortably surged ahead.
It was only when the second seed was serving for the match that the fourth seed showed glimpses of his usual brilliance and saved two match points. But by then, it was too late.
Up next for Murray: Nadal or Del Potro
Murray clinched the win in 1 hour 20 minutes. He now awaits the winner of the second semi-final between 2008 gold medallist Rafael Nadal and 2012 bronze medallist Juan Martin del Potro.