Kei Nishikori claims his first victory on the ATP tour in 21 months
Kei Nishikori has returned to the ATP tour with a bang, with the former No.4 winning his first ATP tour match since October 2021, despite considering retirement in his time away from the sport.
Nishikori spent 2022 on the sidelines after undergoing hip surgery and was set to return at the start of this year.
However, after suffering an ankle injury his comeback was delayed and the 33-year-old revealed that he ‘almost’ retired.
“After eight or nine months of rehab after the hip surgery I was almost ready to come back when I sprained my ankle. It turned out to be complicated and much worse than what I first saw. That set me back another four or five months,” explained Nishikori.
He continued, “Once or twice I almost thought [about retiring]. It was mentally shocking to be so close and then to have a second injury. I wasn’t sure if I could come back from that. So that was the toughest time.”
The Japanese star finally returned in June of this year at the ATP Challenger event in Palmas Del Mar, Puerto Rico, and went all the way to winning the title.
Nishikori, a comeback: a title 🏆
Away from courts for 20 months, the former World No.4 has claimed Palmas del Mar Challenger title on yesterday
It's the 1st time an unranked player wins a Challenger, solid 💪 pic.twitter.com/VQMy9yAZpz
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) June 19, 2023
He followed up by playing two other tournaments at that level, but could not replicate his success in Puerto Rico.
In his first match on the main ATP tour Nishikori beat Jordan Thompson, 7-6(5) 7-6(5), at the ATP 250 event in Atlanta.
Nishikori revealed how much the victory meant to him, “It was very emotional after everything that it took to get back. I’m just so happy to be back here playing. I have zero pressure and can play free. I’m just having fun on the court. And I’m excited to be playing against the top guys again.
“I have had a good team around me and I’m very thankful that Max [Mirnyi] and Michael [Chang] kept encouraging me. They still believe in me and I believe it too.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 25, 2023
Now Nishikori has officially returned, he is look forward to potential meetings with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner.
“One thing I hope to get the chance to do is to play against these great young players like Alcaraz, Rune and Sinner at some point,” said Nishikori. “That’s part of my motivation to try to play for a few more years.
“I don’t think we have seen anyone like Alcaraz before. He looks like Rafa [Nadal] but he has more speed. Good defence, unbelievable forehand and he has a good backhand too.”
Nishikori will continue his comeback tomorrow when he plays his second round match against 18-year-old Juncheng Shang, as he builds up to the US Open.
Kei Nishikori Career Achievements
As Nishikori looks to continue his comeback, we at Tennishead wanted to reflect back on some of his accomplishments in his established career:
Career-high ranking: No.4
ATP Titles: 12 (2008 – Delray Beach, 2012 – Tokyo, 2013 – Memphis, 2014 – Memphis, Barcelona, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, 2015 – Memphis, Barcelona, Washington, 2016 – Memphis, 2019 – Brisbane)
Grand Slam Best Result: Final (US Open 2014)
Olympic Medals: 1 (Bronze – Rio de Janeiro 2016)
ATP Finals Best Result: Semi-final (2014 & 2016)
Read >> World’s best tennis magazine