The fifth seed dominated from start to finish, looking solid on serve despite only putting 47% of first serve into play over the course of the match. His opponent was no match for him today, as the recent US Open champion suffered from a slow start here at the season ending championships, just like he did last year when he lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
Heading into the match Wawrinka led the pair head-to-head 4-2, winning their most recent encounter in the semifinals of the US Open 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. However, it was Nishikori who won their other encounter this year, seeing off the Swiss in straight sets 7-6(6), 6-1 in the semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Canada.
The Swiss struggles to find his rhythm
Playing in the opening match of the tournament, Wawrinka initially struggled to settle in, quickly facing two break points on serve. The world number five spurned the first chance as he pulled the trigger on a big forehand, which went beyond the baseline, and the Swiss drew an error from the Japanese star to save the second opportunity before holding.
In the fifth game, the US Open champion found himself under further pressure on serve as Nishikori demonstrated exceptional defensive skills to keep himself in the rally which brought up break point. The fifth seed missed a second serve return long to waste another opportunity, but was not to be denied the first break of the match on the next occasion, dominating the rally closing with a forehand crosscourt winner to take a 3-2 lead.
Kei in complete control
Things got even worse for the world number three on serve as he struggled to find rhythm, double faulting twice to drop the game and move 5-2 behind. The Japanese star looked to be in imperious form as he closed out the set to love, winning 20 of the last 26 points, as well as winning 90% of points behind his second serve.
Both players held comfortably in their opening service games in set number two but then came under increasing pressure. Wawrinka still struggled with his timing from the back of the court, hanging on at 30-30 and deuce to hold and stay in front.
The fifth seed also faced his first real test on serve at deuce and had his heart in his mouth as the ball he struck appeared to be going long but found the corner to save himself from having to face his first break point. Locked in at 2-2, Nishikori made his move, crushing a return of serve to leave the Swiss stunned as he broke and proceeded to hold serve to love to move 4-2 in front.
The three-time Grand Slam champion held serve once more but failed to force the fifth seed to serve out the match, letting a 30-0 lead slip at 3-5, ending the match with an error to secure a comprehensive 6-2, 6-3 victory for Nishikori.