5. The harrowing drive home
While it was cold all week in Memphis, the weather held off until shortly after Kei Nishikori made history Sunday evening. Lucky for me (sarcasm), the intense sleet and snow didn’t start caking the truck until I hit the mountain roads just west of Jonesboro. Honestly, visibility was terrible, traction was nonexistent and guardrails are hard to come by in north-central Arkansas. It was one of those ice-snow events where you have to get out of the truck every 10-minutes to bust crusted ice off the wiper blades. The 5-hour trip became seven, but I was happy to make it home by midnight…and not get stuck at the airport Monday morning, like most of the linespeople headed to the Delray Beach Open.
4. Dreddy’s “Tweener Lob”
Just another sick piece of showmanship from the German highlight reel that actually made ESPN Sportcenter’s nightly top-10. Despite the remarkable tweener and an efficient serve-and-volley performance against the #6-seed, Dustin Brown couldn’t pull-off the win. Steve Johnson advanced in a third set tie-break: 4-6 7-5 7-6(3).
3. Austin Krajicek
What an amazing week for American southpaw Austin Krajicek. He came into Memphis ranked #156 in the world…and would climb 15 spots by week’s end. He blasted through qualifying without dropping a set, then delivered a third-set thriller over Mikhail Kukushkin (13-11 in the deciding tie-break). Ivo Karlovic would fall next – Austin’s first career win over a top-25 player. In the Quarterfinals, completely unintimidated by the moment and opponent, Austin took the first-set off world #5 Kei Nishikori…then fell 3-6, 4-6. Austin: “This whole tournament has been a great experience for me. I think moving forward, just being around the guys that are tops in the world, it gives you confidence and you see what it means to compete at that level. I know now that I can do it.”
2. Donald Young’s remarkable week
Aside from Kei Nishikori’s historic win, Donald Young’s incredible week was the story of the 2015 Memphis Open. He started the tournament ranked #67 in the world, and would climb to #56 by Sunday. His first win was an upset over the #8-seed Adrian Mannarino (Auckland Finalist just a month earlier). He’d then post wins over Denis Kudla and Bernard Tomic before falling in only his fourth career Semifinal to Kevin Anderson. Young also delivered big wins in doubles, teaming with Artem Sitak for the first time to reach his first ATP World Tour Doubles Final. He and Artem took veterans Santiago Gonzalez and Mariusz Fyrstenberg to a match tie-break before falling in the Final.
1. Kei Nishikori rewrites history…again
The first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam Final (2014 US Open), is now the first player ever to win three consecutive Memphis Open titles. Kei had a rough week. Uncomfortable with string tension throughout the tournament, he dropped set #1 in each of his first three matches. Querrey took him to a deciding tie-break in the Semifinal; but Kei had his eye on history in Sunday’s Final, delivering a straight sets win over World #15 Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4.