TENNIS

Japan’s 96-year wait ends as Nishikori delivers bronze

Kei Nishikori won Japan's first Olympic tennis medal in almost a century on Sunday beating Rafa Nadal 6-2, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3.

Japan’s 96-year wait ends as Nishikori delivers bronze
JAVIER SORIANO AFP

Kei Nishikori won Japan's first Olympic tennis medal in almost a century on Sunday when he captured bronze against Rafa Nadal, despite the weary Spaniard mounting a stirring mid-match fightback.

Nishikori triumphed 6-2, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 to become the first Japanese tennis medallist since Antwerp in 1920 when the country won men's silver and men's doubles silver.

Nadal, the 2008 singles champion in Beijing, was playing his 11th match in Rio. But the 30-year-old did not go down meekly, fighting back from 2-5 down in the second set to push the play-off into a decider.

The Spanish great won the doubles gold with Marc López on Friday and then lost an epic three-hour singles semi-final to world number 141 Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday. Del Potro faces defending champion Andy Murray for the gold medal later on Sunday.

Nishikori had lost nine of his previous meetings against Nadal. But he eventually proved too strong for the 14-time major winner who was playing in his first tournament in almost three months after a wrist injury forced an early withdrawal from the French Open.