As three-year title drought ends, can revitalised Kei Nishikori challenge again on the biggest stage

Nishikori came up trumps in Brisbane (Picture: AFP/Getty) Often lost in the noise of Novak Djokovic’s remarkable comeback in 2019 was the rise of Kei Nishikori.  The Serbian world No. 1 – who became the first man to finish a season as the top-ranked male player having been outside the top-20 in the same year – was a more than deserving recipient of the ATP Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year award but Nishikori’s own recovery deserved plenty of recognition.  Nishikori started last season losing a first-round challenger match and finished the year competing in the ATP Finals – a tournament only the top-eight players in the world qualify for.  Less than a year on from his first-round loss to then world No. 238 Dennis Novikov in Newport Beach, Nishikori ended one of the more miserable recent runs in tennis.  The Japanese was without a tour-level title since 2016, losing in nine consecutive finals after beating home favourite Taylor Fritz at the now defunct Memphis Open, before he defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 on Sunday at the Brisbane International. Advertisement Advertisement  ‘I’m really happy that finally I won this title,’ he said in his on-court interview. Medvedev was beaten (Picture: AFP/Getty) ‘I actually lost to him in the final in Japan last year, so it was nice to have revenge today.  ‘I was injured last year, I’m happy to be back healthy and playing these tournaments again.’  After a rocky start, Nishikori largely dominated his Russian opponent and, in truth, should have had it wrapped up in straight sets given the number of chances squandered to break the Medvedev serve in the second.  What was clear, though, is just how big a threat the injury-ravaged Nishikori remains on the ATP Tour.  ‘Amazing match, amazing week,’ Medvedev said of his 29-year-old opponent. ‘If he plays like this, he’s going to have a lot of success this season.’ Nishikori’s last 10 ATP Tour finals  Brisbane 2019: 6-4 3-6 6-2 MedvedevVienna 2018: 3-6 6-7 AndersonTokyo 2018: 2-6 4-6 MedvedevMonte Carlo 2018: 3-6 2-6 NadalBuenos Aires 2017: 6-7 4-6 DolgopolovBrisbane 2017: 2-6 6-2 3-6 DimitrovBasel 2016: 1-6 6-7 CilicCanada Masters 2016: 3-6 5-7 DjokovicBarcelona 2016: 4-6 5-7 NadalMiami 2016: 3-6 3-6 Djokovic  Nishikori is among the finest returners in the sport and no player in history has enjoyed a better winning percentage in deciding sets.  And yet, the Japanese No. 1 has earned himself a reputation as a bit of a bottler; a player who few believe will truly challenge for a major title again.  That reputation was perhaps forged back in 2014 when he was swept aside by Marin Cilic – a one-time Grand Slam winner – in the US Open final. Advertisement Advertisement  Having beaten Djokovic to become the first Asian man to reach a Slam final, a 24-year-old Nishikori barely landed a glove on his Croat finalist as he was beaten in straight sets on the biggest day of his career.  He’s not reached a Grand Slam final since. Nishikori was beaten by Cilic

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.