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American teenager Taylor Fritz loses Memphis Open final to Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori won his fourth straight Memphis Open title on Sunday, beating American teenager Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-4.

The Japanese world No7 joins Jimmy Connors as the only four-time winners of the event and became the fourth active player to win an event four times, joining Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The 18-year-old Fritz was already the youngest American since Michael Chang in 1989 at the age of 17 to reach an ATP Tour final and was trying to join Chang as a winner in just his third career ATP event. An American teenager hadn’t reached an ATP final since Andy Roddick in 2002 in Montreal, and a teenager hadn’t won a title on the men’s tour since Marin Cilic in New Haven in 2008.

Nishikori and Fritz had never met on tour before, but they practiced against each other in recent months.

At 26 and a winner of 54 matches each of the past two years, Nishikori used his experience and speed to finish off Fritz in an hour and 19 minutes. Fritz put up nine aces with his big serve, but Nishikori was much more effective winning 31 of 38 points on his first serve.

Fritz said he felt he figured out his serve in the second set of his semi-final victory on Saturday, and he opened the final winning each point on his first five first serves. Nishikori, by contrast was broken, in his first service game and Fritz had a 3-0 lead.

Nishikori held serve and then broke Fritz when the teenager double-faulted at 30-40. Nishikori had another chance to break Fritz in the seventh game, but the American fought off three break points to hold serve and go up 4-3. Nishikori held serve, then broke Fritz after the American had game point at 40-15. Nishikori served out winning the set in 36 minutes.

The second set went with serve until Nishikori broke Fritz in the fifth game. Fritz then fought off two championship points to hold serve later in the set and force Nishikori to serve for the title at 5-4.

Nishikori celebrated with a fist pump after finishing off his title with a forehand winner, joining Connors who won the event in 1978-79 and 1983-84. It was Nishikori’s 11th career title and first since Washington last August.

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