MEMPHIS, Tenn. — All the big names from Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe to Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick are on the list of past champions.
Now Kei Nishikori of Japan stands alone as Memphis’ first three-peat champ.
Nishikori became the first man to win three straight Memphis Open titles, beating South African Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 in the final Sunday.
“It’s (an) amazing feeling because nobody ever done this before at this tournament, so it’s something special,” Nishikori said. “But, you know, I think I have to do better to keep this, and hopefully I can keep going.”
Nishikori improved to 13-1 at the indoor tournament, where Connors, Tommy Haas and Todd Martin failed to string together three straight titles. Now only Connors has more championships at The Racquet Club than Nishikori, who is tied with Haas and Roddick at three apiece.
“I think I am going to move here soon,” Nishikori said before accepting his guitar trophy.
The fifth-ranked Nishikori won his eighth career ATP title and first since Tokyo last year. He needed only 76 minutes to beat the second-seeded Anderson despite playing with a sore right wrist and a blister on his left pinkie toe. He got his left thumb taped during the first set before taking the $106,565 winner’s check.
Mariusz Fyrstenberg of Poland and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico won the doubles title, beating Artem Sitak of New Zealand and American Donald Young 5-7, 7-6 (1), 10-8.
Nishikori, the U.S. Open runner-up, now is 10-2 this year.
“I think it’s a great start for the year and like last year, so really happy to (do) this three times in a row,” Nishikori said.
Haas won the titles in 2006 and ‘07 but lost in the second round in 2008, while Martin went back-to-back in 1994-95 only to drop the 1996 final to Pete Sampras.
Connors lost to John McEnroe in the 1980 final and to Brad Gilbert in the 1986 quarterfinals.
This also is the first time Nishikori has won the same event three consecutive years. He was happiest at playing his best match of the tournament, picking his moments to jump on shots.
“Played really solid from the baseline, I think, and returned really well, especially his second serve,” Nishikori said. “I was making everything, and that’s why I could break a couple times.”
PETKOVIC WINS: In Antwerp, Belgium, third-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany won the Diamond Games without hitting a ball when fifth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain pulled out of Sunday’s final with a neck injury.
After clinching her sixth career title, Petkovic gave home fans something to cheer when she played an exhibition match against four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, who is the tournament director.
Suarez Navarro decided not to play after waking up with severe neck pains.
Petkovic reached the final the hard way, saving eight match points in a second-round win over Belgian wildcard Alison Van Uytvanck. She took well over two hours to beat unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the semifinals, despite leading by a set and 4-3 on serve.
The 27-year-old Petkovic breaks back into the Top 10 rankings this week.