5. John Isner vs Kei Nishikori
4th Round, Indian Wells, California
6-1, 6-7(2), 6-7(5)
In one of the many strange matches in the Californian desert, Kei Nishikori rallied to beat home favorite big-hitter John Isner. A one-sided first set went the American’s way. There were no break opportunities to pounce on in the second set. In the tiebreaker, Nishikori raced to a 5-0 lead, ultimately winning it 7-2 and leveling the contest. The third set was quite similar to the second set. 11 games past and still there were no chances to break. At 5-6, 30-40, Nishikori faced match point but he didn’t yield. A tiebreak was forced, in which Nishikori prevailed.
Isner’s serve was not broken even once during the match. He served 23 aces in a losing effort but was a part of such a great matchup.
4. Grigor Dimitrov vs Marin Cilic
Semi-Final, Cincinnati, Ohio
6-4, 3-6, 5-7
The match was a big one for both the contenders. After all, a spot in the final of Western and Southern Open was on the line. Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Croat Marin Cilic fought hard for the right to face Murray in the final. A single break was enough for Dimitrov to take the opening stanza. Again, a solitary break was required as Cilic leveled the semi-final at one set all. In the final set, Dimitrov opened a 2-0 lead, only to get broken right away. He broke again to go up 4-2. But again, Cilic struck back right away. Cilic finally built his foothold in the match and broke Dimitrov’s serve one last time and served out an emphatic victory.
The match was a great display of the players’ determination and perseverance. Also, Cilic served only 44% first serves in the match but was still able to prevail because of his attacking game and went all the way to claim his maiden Masters 1000.
3. Rafael Nadal vs Alexander Zverev
4th Round, Indian Wells, California
Rafael Nadal had a lot to prove, entering the 2016 season. His match against German teenage sensation Alexander Zverev in Indian Wells 4th round was a good day for the Spaniard to put things right and answer all the questions about his form. Holding 2 set points in the first-set tiebreaker, Nadal lost control and ultimately the set. Nadal showed his old self in the second set, breaking the German thrice and stealing the set 6-0. But Zverev was the one more settled in the final set. Breaking Nadal’s serve and consolidating the break to go up 5-4, Zverev was serving for a famous victory. 40-30 and match point for the German. Nadal saved the match ball, broke and served out the match for a remarkable comeback win.
Zverev’s second serve was the standout factor in his loss. He won only 35% of his second-serve points. Also, the German served 11 double-faults, which hurt his cause even more.
2. Federico Delbonis vs Andy Murray
3rd Round, Indian Wells, California
6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3)
On a dry afternoon in the Californian desert, Argentine Federico Delbonis upset No.2 seed Andy Murray in the Indian Wells 3rd round. The 2 hour, 46-minute contest featured 8 breaks of serve. There were many grueling and long rallies in the match, with both players displaying great shot-making from the baseline. Murray, down a set, broke at the end of the second set to level the contest. The final set saw Delbonis coming from 1-4 down to level the decider at 4-4. Serving for the match at 6-5, Delbonis cracked, Murray broke and the match was sent into a breaker. Surprisingly, as a final turn of events, Delbonis once again took control to setup 3 match points and complete a remarkable upset.
1. Kei Nishikori vs Novak Djokovic
Semi-Final, Italy, Rome
2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)
Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic battled for a spot in the final of the Italian Open. The match was a supreme confrontation between the World No.1 and the Japanese sensation.A week earlier, in Madrid, Djokovic prevailed in straight sets. The outcome was similar this time, but the process to reach that outcome was physically more demanding and emotionally even more challenging. Nishikori, firing on all cylinders took the opening set 6-2. Just like the first set, Nishikori saved many break points to stay in touch with the Serb, but the Serb finally broke to level the storm. Down 1-4In the third set, Nishikori struck back and evened the decider at 4-4. A tiebreaker ensued to decide the winner.Nishikori saved three match points but ultimately lost 5-7 in the breaker.
The match lasted 3 hours and 2 minutes. Even the statistics revealed that very small margins decided the outcome. Djokovic won 112 points in total, compared to Nishikori’s 111. Djokovic’s inconsistency laid in his break point conversion, which stood at a rare low 14%. Still, the Serb prevailed, thanks to his resolute game.