London, November 12: Kei Nishikori produced a huge upset at the ATP Finals on Sunday with a straight-sets victory over a below-par Roger Federer.
Nishikori came into his opening match of the round-robin stage having not beaten Federer in their six previous meetings, but the world number nine battled to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win at the O2 Arena.
It adds to a remarkable second half of 2018 for Nishikori, who started the year playing ATP Challenger events as he came back from wrist surgery.
Inflicting a rare defeat on Federer is undoubtedly the highlight of the year for Japanese, the six-time winner of the end-of-season event well short of his usual standards as he began his bid for a 100th career crown.
@KeiNishikori ends 6-match losing streak to 6-time champion @RogerFederer with 7-6(4) 6-3 win at #NittoATPFinals. Federer loses opener for 4th time in 16th appearance.— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) 11 November 2018
* 2007 l. to Fernando Gonzalez (RF went on title)
* 2008 l. to @GillesSimon84
* 2013 l. to @DjokerNole
Federer's troubles began in game four as a wayward forehand and another into the net allowed Nishikori to gain some momentum, although neither player was able to fashion a break point.
The serene backhand that has defined Federer's career looked to have kicked into gear by game seven, but putting Nishikori under pressure proved a task too far.
He did have a 0-30 advantage in the 12th but Nishikori battled back to force a tie-break, and mistakes from Federer handed his opponent the lead.
After no breaks of serve in the first set, Nishikori double-faulted in the opener of the second, but Federer gifted the advantage straight back as his out-of-character display continued.
The sixth game proved crucial as Nishikori converted a break chance to lead 4-2, his deep forehand proving too good for Federer's backhand.
Crucially for Nishikori he then served out two games with aplomb, not giving Federer a sniff of a chance as he blew Group Lleyton Hewitt wide open.
Nishikori bt Federer 7-6 (7-4) 6-3
Nishikori – 6/22
Federer – 19/34
Nishikori – 2/4
Federer – 4/4
BREAK POINTS WON
Nishikori – 2/2
Federer – 1/2
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nishikori – 52
Federer – 57
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nishikori – 77/62
Federer – 78/54
Nishikori – 66
Federer – 58