Kei NishikoriWhile Tomas Berdych failed to retain the Rotterdam Open, Japanese Hero Kei Nishikori remained on course at the ATP250 Memphis Open to register back-to-back victories for the third year in a row. The tournament, which began in 1975 but acquired its current form in 1976, was won in that year by India’s Vijay Amritraj. The winners in subsequent years were such greats as Bjorn Borg, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Pete Sampras. But no one ever won at Memphis for three consecutive years. Tommy Haas, Todd Martin and Jimmy Connors have won for two consecutive years with Connors repeating the feat twice. In the final, Nishikori cruised to an easy victory over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson. The Brasil Open 2015 at Sao Paulo last week was won by Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas, who stopped the dream run of the Italian qualifier Luca Vanni. The current week in the ATP calendar features another ATP500 tournament at Rio de Janeiro and two ATP250 events at Delray Beach, Las Vegas and Open 13 at Marseille France. The Rio event has evoked considerable attention since Rafael Nadal is one of the participants.

World no.5 Kei Nishikori of Japan emerged as the only player in the last 40 years to win the tournament three times on the trot. While his 6-4, 6-4 victory in the final was relatively easy, the Japanese star had a hard time progressing in the tournament. In the semifinal, world no.39 Sam Querrey of USA stretched him to three sets in a 2 hour 42 minute battle. Nishikori lost the first set against Querrey and it required him to win the second and third set tiebreaks before getting past the 198-cm tall American 5-7, 7-6, 7-6. Not only that, Nishikori had to play two three-setters in his first two rounds against Ryan Harrison and Austin Krajicek. In each of these matches, Nishikori came through after losing the first sets. In the final against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, the Japanese faced 12 booming aces but found break opportunities in both sets.

In the Brasil Open at Sao Paulo, Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas played a dominant game against Italian qualifier Luca Vanni, who had been creating ripples all through the tournament. Vanni however, took one set away from Cuevas before losing the match. Cuevas began strongly and won the opening set 6-4 in just 32 minutes. However, the fifth seeded Cuevas lost the momentum in the second set as the Italian broke him early to take a 2-0 lead. Vanni kept pushing further as Cuevas made one unforced error after another. With Vanni’s pinpoint volleys from the baseline finding their marks, he took the second set 6-3 to force the decider. In the third set, both players matched each other and went on serves until the eighth game. The Italian showed his colors as he forced a break in the ninth game to lead 5-4. With Vanni’s service coming up, it was crunch time for Cuevas. He raised his game and broke right back as the Italian lost his nerves. The match went to the tiebreak thereafter. Cuevas emerged a better player in the tiebreak as he won 7 out of the last 10 points to seal a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 victory and take the title.

At Delray Beach Open on Wednesday, Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei caused a major upset by defeating the top-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6, 6-3. Anderson, who finished runners-up to Kei Nishikori at Memphis Open on Sunday, couldn’t handle the spirited Lu, who forced the South African into undue errors at crucial moments. In the quarterfinals, Lu will face Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who defeated Denis Kudla of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2. In other matches Ivo Karlovic fended off a strong challenge from Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis before entering the quarterfinal with a 7-6, 7-6 win. The 35-year old drew on his vast experience to sideline the Australian teenager, after Kokkinakis played marvelously all through. Karlovic’s quarterfinal opponent will be 7th seeded American Steve Johnson, who brushed aside another teenage qualifier Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-3.

At Rio Open, half the quarterfinalists were decided on Wednesday. Of these, world no.74 Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria caused a 6-3, 6-2 upset win over no.3 seed Tommy Robredo of Spain. Others who reached the quarterfinals were; David Ferrer, Juan Monaco and Joao Souza. Ferrer came through after his opponent Thiemo de Bakker retired midway while Juan Monaco prevailed over Jarkko Nieminen 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. The fourth quarterfinalist Joao Souza defeated Blaz Rola 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 in a tough match. Rafael Nadal is bracketed in the top half of the draw and he will meet compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta for the place in the quarterfinal on Thursday. Three other quarterfinalists will be decided on Thursday in the matches between Albert Montanes and Pablo Curvas; Fabio Fognini and Pablo Andujar and Federico Delbonis and Martin Klizan.