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Miami Open 2021: Kei Nishikori vs Stefanos Tsitsipas preview, head-to-head & prediction

Kei Nishikori
Kei Nishikori
Iman Guha
CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 31 Mar 2021
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Match details

Fixture: (28) Kei Nishikori vs (2) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Date: 29 March 2021

Tournament: Miami Open 2021

Round: Third round (Round of 32)

Venue: Miami, Florida

Category: ATP Masters 1000 Series

Surface: Outdoor hardcourt

Prize money: $3,340,000

Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Europsort

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Kei Nishikori vs Stefanos Tsitsipas preview

Kei Nishikori entered Miami as the 28th-seed and the 39th-ranked player in the world. Admittedly, those aren't numbers anyone would have associated with the Japanese half a decade ago.

But time has played its cards. And Nishikori, now two more major injuries older - one in the wrist and the other in the elbow - finds himself on the other end of the age spectrum against a younger opponent.

Kei Nishikori in action against Aljaz Bedene in his Round of 64 match
Kei Nishikori in action against Aljaz Bedene in his Round of 64 match

Miami holds special memories for Nishikori. During his breakthrough season in 2014, Nishikori beat Roger Federer in Miami en route to the semifinals, from where he had to pull out due to a groin injury.

That wasn't a one-off either; from 2014-2017, the Japanese made at least the quarterfinals in Miami every year. In 2016, he even played the championship match - where he lost out to Novak Djokovic.

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But Nishikori's current version is a shadow of his former self. While he keeps showing glimpses of his sharp acumen every now and then, he has struggled to hold it together on a consistent basis.

Heading into Miami, Nishikori stood at a 5-6 win-loss record for 2021. But all his wins have come in March, and some of them over more favored opponents like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Alex de Minaur and David Goffin.

Stefanos Tsitsipas in action against Damir Dzumhur in his Round of 64 match
Stefanos Tsitsipas in action against Damir Dzumhur in his Round of 64 match

Stefenos Tsitsipas, meanwhile, headlines the bottom section of the Miami draw. Seeded second and currently ranked fifth in the world, the Greek is a gentle reminder to tennis fans of how Nishikori himself was positioned in the world when he was younger.

The accomplishments and recent form of Tsitsipas and Nishikori align perfectly with their career graphs. Tsitsipas, still on the rise, has just a Round of 16 showing as his best performance in Miami - where he lost to Denis Shapovalov in a deciding set tiebreak. But few would argue against his best still lying ahead of him.

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The 22-year-old got off to a perfect start in 2021, winning both his ATP Cup matches. He then came back from two sets to love down against Rafael Nadal to make the Australian Open semis, before succumbing to an even more perfect Daniil Medvedev.

Tsitsipas entered Miami on the back of a 14-4 win-loss record in 2021, bolstered by a runner-up finish to Alexander Zverev at Acapulco just the previous week.

Interestingly, both Nishikori and Tsitsipas lost to the same opponent in Marseille - the eventual finalist at the tournament, Pierre Hugues-Herbert.

Kei Nishikori vs Stefanos Tsitsipas head-to-head

In Tokyo 2018, when Kei Nishikori was ranked 12th in the world and Stefanos Tsitsipas 15th, Nishikori beat the latter 6-3 6-3. That indoor hardcourt match being their only meeting to date, Nishikori leads the head-to-head against Tsitsipas 1-0.

Kei Nishikori vs Stefanos Tsitsipas prediction

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas

Let's have a look at their respective Elo ratings:

  1. Kei Nishikori entered Miami at Elo 1792. Following his three-set win over Aljaz Bedene, his tournament adjusted Elo stands at 1800.
  2. Stefanos Tsitsipas entered Miami at Elo 1995. Following his straight-sets win over Damir Dzumhur, his tournament adjusted Elo stands at 2000.

At their current Elo ratings, Tsitsipas stands a 75.97% chance of winning the match.

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However, a lot will depend on which version of Nishikori shows up. Being one of the better returners on tour, if the Japanese is in the zone, he can capitalise heavily on Tsitsipas' second serve. He would be favored to dominate the backhand-to-backhand exchanges as well.

Tsitsipas, on the other hand, will look to dominate on serve and find his forehand as often as possible. If both players are playing well, the match promises to be a visual delight.

That said, the Miami heat might have an impact on Nishikori. He was stretched to three hours in his previous match, while Tsitsipas need little over one.

Expceted numbers on serve

Tsitsipas is expected to win around 67% of his service points, and Nishikori around 62% of his.

Prediction: Stefanos Tsitsipas to win 6-4 6-7 6-2.

Published 28 Mar 2021, 15:24 IST
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