By Mark Poulose
Key Biscayne - It was a blustery Saturday day session at the Miami Open tennis tournament, following a Friday marked by severe weather and postponed matches. Wind billowed around the sunny Key Biscayne tennis complex, and temperatures barely hovered past 70 degrees for much of the afternoon.
Despite the breezy conditions, Kei Nishikori showed no signs of trouble against 64th ranked Mikhail Youzhny Saturday afternoon, quickly dispatching the 32-year-old Russian 6-2, 6-1 on Grandstand court.
“I felt really good on the court, really confident,” said Nishikori after the match. “It was a little windy, but the weather was actually good.”
The 25-year-old Japanese national has seen a meteoric rise to the top of the game, becoming the highest-ranking Japanese player of all time after reaching No. 4 in the Emirates ATP tour rankings on March 2. Nishikori, currently ranked fifth, had his full talent on display Saturday against Youzhny.
“[Youzhny] is not the guy to hit winners every point. So, you know, I was expecting a little rallies,” said Nishikori. “But, my plan was always trying to be aggressive and come in sometimes and use a lot of forehands.”
Nishikori repeatedly got the better of Youzhny in rallies from the baseline, peppering the enigmatic Russian’s backhand with stinging forehands and agressive net play. Nishikori was also content to extend rallies against Youzhny, daring him to hit big, with the confidence that his strokes would outlast those of Youzhny.
His plan worked to perfection. Youzhny and Nishikori had met just one time prior to Saturday’s contest, with Youzhny winning the only meeting. After his 6-2, 6-1 victory, Nishikori leveled the head-to-head match up with a convincing win.
For Youzhny, Saturday represented another setback for the former No. 8 player in the world. Youzhny’s season record fell to 3-6, and he has reached just one tournament quarterfinal this year, in Zagreb. His career record at Miami now stands at 10-11.
Nishikori's third round opponent will be deicded later today when Vikto Troicki faces Simone Bolelli, the third match on court 8.