Kei Nishikori plays his first Masters 1000 match in a year and a half

Kei Nishikori entered his first tournament since July last year

by Jovica Ilic
Kei Nishikori plays his first Masters 1000 match in a year and a half
© Stream screenshot

Former world no. 4 Kei Nishikori returned to action in Miami, playing his first tournament since July last year. In his first Masters 1000 match since October 2021, Kei met Sebastian Ofner and experienced a 6-3, 6-4 loss in an hour and 19 minutes.

The Austrian fired nine aces and played well behind the first and second serve. He tamed the Japanese's first serve nicely and delivered one break in each set en route to a straight-sets triumph. Kei stayed in touch with Sebastian in the mid-range and most advanced exchanges.

However, Ofner forged the advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes, earning the win in that segment. Nishikori felt well on the court, missing many tournaments in the previous couple of years due to injuries and setbacks.

Kei Nishikori, Miami 2024© Stream screenshot

Ofner missed a couple of game points in the first game of the duel and faced a break point. He saved it and held after forcing Nishikori's mistake. The Austrian denied the Japanese's game point in the next one with a forehand winner and grabbed a break that sent him 2-0 in front.

Sebastian sprayed a forehand error in the third game, offering Kei two break chances. Ofner saved them with a service winner and a fine attack before holding with a service winner, opening a 3-0 advantage. They served well in the upcoming games, and Sebastian painted an ace down the T line in the seventh game for a 5-2 lead.

Kei served to stay in the set in game eight and fired a forehand crosscourt winner after deuce, reducing the deficit and prolonging the action.

Sebastian Ofner defeated Kei Nishikori in straight sets in Miami.

Sebastian served for the set in game nine and landed a forehand winner, wrapping up the opener 6-3 in 41 minutes.

They served well at the beginning of the second set, reaching 2-2 after four comfortable holds. Kei denied two break points in the fifth game and held, remaining on the positive side. However, Sebastian produced one good hold after another, keeping the pressure on his opponent.

Ofner forced Nishikori's mistake in the seventh game, earning two break points. The Austrian converted the first when the Japanese netted a routine backhand, moving 4-3 up and closer to the finish line. Sebastian cemented the advantage with an ace in game eight, moving closer to the finish line.

Kei Nishikori & Sebastian Ofner, Miami 2024© Stream screenshot

Nishikori held at 15 in the ninth game, prolonging the action and needed a break in the next one to stay in touch. Instead, Sebastian painted a backhand down the line winner, holding at love and booking a place in the second round.

The former world no. 4 is motivated to keep pushing and working hard until the results come. If he stays healthy, Kei plans to embrace as many matches as possible, hoping to avoid injuries and settle into a nice rhythm. Nishikori would love to enter Houston, Barcelona, and Madrid ahead of Roland Garros. However, it would be fine for him to play Challengers again if he keeps collecting early losses on the ATP level.

Kei Nishikori