Qualifier Novikov Shocks Top-Seeded Nishikori in First-Round Thriller
Women’s Top-seed Christina McHale Falls in 1st Rd. Singles Match
It was a day to remember for American Dennis Novikov as the 24-year-old Los Angeles resident ousted top-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in one-hour and 46 minutes to advance to the second round of the Oracle Challenger Series.
On a bright, sunny afternoon at the Newport Beach Tennis Club, Novikov, a qualifier ranked No. 238 in the world, slammed 15 aces past Nishikori, who is coming back from a right wrist injury and was playing his first tournament match since last August in Montreal.
After Novikov won the first set in 36 minutes, Nishikori battled back as he broke the hard-serving American twice to capture the second set to even the match.
In a tense third-set, Nishikori served to stay in the match at 4-5, but Novikov scored the match-clinching service break in the tenth-game to put the match away.
“I’ve beaten a couple of guys in the top 50, but definitely, this is the best win of my career,” said Novikov, who will face fellow American Reilly Opelka in the second round. “I thought I had a few opportunities to serve it out, didn’t get it done, I regrouped and was able to break. It was a good day for me today.”
Two All-American matches highlighted Tuesday’s matches in the women’s singles draw. Jamie Loeb eliminated top-seeded Christina McHale 6-2, 6-4 in one-hour and 20 minutes, while Nicole Gibbs got past Julia Boserup 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
Following her singles victory, Gibbs, who lives in the nearby beachfront community of Venice in Los Angeles, was asked how it felt to compete in the inaugural Oracle Challenger Series.
“This is incredible. Southern California has needed this for so long. We keep losing tournaments and I don’t understand why because you look around and see the amount of enthusiasm, even for a 125K (150K) level event,” Gibbs said.
“It’s really exciting to get tennis back in the area. I’m really thankful Oracle stepped up and wanted to make this happen for the young U.S. players,” she added. “It’s huge in terms of our development and our ability to climb up the ranks.”