Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

27 August 2015

How a new coach made Kei Nishikori a grand slam contender

How does one begin to measure toughness? It’s probably most akin to gauging or producing team chemistry, and about as tangible. Lucky for Kei Nishikori and his coach, American legend Michael Chang, both have seemed to arrive for them almost effortlessly, with favorable results nearly as rapidly.

Since naming Chang, the former world No. 2 and the 1989 French Open champion, to a support team that includes longtime coach Dante Bottini, Nishikori’s game and results have continued to grow. After turning pro in 2007, the top-ranked Japanese player slowly rose in the rankings up to a career-high No 11 for a handful of weeks in 2013, ending that season at No 17. But talk about impact. Since Chang began working with him, Nishikori, now 25, has won seven of his 10 ATP titles (including three this season), broken into the top five (he’s currently No. 4 in the world), and made it to his first grand slam final at last year’s U.S. Open.

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9 August 2015

Kei Nishikori up to world No. 4 after downing John Isner in Citi Open final

On Saturday, after a tight semi-final victory in Washington DC, John Isner told the crowd that he’d need them out in full force the next day to win the title. They did their part on Sunday, showing up and providing him with backing in the championship match against world No5 Kei Nishikori, but it was not enough as the top-ranked American lost in a hard-fought three-setter, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

In a match where Nishikori was only a little better than his opponent, the final outcome was never obvious until late in the match. That’s in part because it featured just three breaks of serve. The first was for Isner, but it was the latter two for Nishikori that were ultimately the difference.

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25 June 2015

Devin Booker aims to do what his father Melvin couldn’t – star in the NBA

On the eve of the 2015 NBA Draft, where franchises each year attempt to choose the next sure-fire stars and unearth diamonds in the rough, the selection of one particular lottery pick is actually a generation in the making.

That’s because University of Kentucky guard Devin Booker, like his father Melvin before him, is a basketball prodigy and a product of tiny Moss Point, Miss. But come Thursday night in Brooklyn, Devin will undoubtedly do something his dad, a standout at Mizzou in the early-1990s, was never able to accomplish – being drafted into the world’s premier professional basketball league. The younger Booker, the SEC Sixth Man of the Year and an All-SEC Freshman Team selection, is in the discussion as the class’s best shooter and may even go in the top-10 picks. No matter the differences, father and son will both anxiously await the commissioner reading the surname they share.

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19 May 2015

Draymond Green adds toughness to Golden State Warriors finesse

The Golden State Warriors’ dream season speeds forward into the Western Conference Finals, and Draymond Green continues to be the team’s driving force – no matter if he’s out on the floor or on the bench.

Averaging a hair over 37 minutes per game throughout this postseason, the versatile forward is rarely out of the game. Even with big numbers – 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals per contest – his impact on the outcome is at least as forceful in his role as head cheerleader. Just watch a game. While teammates sit and rest, the 25-year-old is often the only player standing at the edge of the baseline, towel draped over the shoulders of his bench tee, incessantly rooting and rumbling over the on-court action. And he’s at least as animated and energetic after the game’s final seconds have ticked off the clock as well.

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