Japan has become a real sporting nation over the years, with fabulous competitors coming into many sports and impressing on a new level entirely. In tennis, the best Japanese player – and one of the best in the world at present – is Kei Nishikori. The Bradenton-based star turned pro a decade ago in 2017, and in that time has amassed a whopping $3.75m in career earnings so far.
At just 27, too, he has the whole rest of his career in front of him to continue an incredible level of professional and personal development in one of the most competitive landscapes in sport.
He won his first title in 2008, when he took the Delray Beach title. However, the next four years were somewhat of a famine for Kei; he never reached another trophy win until 2012, when he won in Tokyo. This, though, was merely setting the tone for what was about to become one of the most meteoric rises in the history of the sport.
In 2014, he became the first Asian tennis player to reach a Grand Slam singles final. He reached the US Open, and lost to the impressive Marin Cilic in a straight sets loss. However, the fact that he finally broke the barrier and reached a flagship final was seen as a major success back home and across the tennis world.
2014 continued in a positive vein for him, too, when he became the first Asian to reach the ATP World Tour Finals, a huge feat. This showed instantly that his wonderful level of consistency on the court has been paying off. With a solid and accurate playstyle that composes a variety of forehand and backhand hits, he’s got the power to play a deeper game, hitting from the baseline and causing his opponents lots of trouble.
He’s got a wonderful backhand technique, arguably one of the best in the sport, and also has intensely powerful ground strokes. Best of all, though, could be his ability to continuously return even the most venomous of shots. He’s got great consistency and stability in his game, keeping a cool head when the pressure would most likely get to other players.
While he could do with improving on a middle service game, it’s consistent enough to serve as another feather in his cap. If he was to add a stronger level of service, then he might just take that next step and move into the pantheon of the elite.
At just 27, though, Nishikori knows that he has plenty of time to get himself into the best shape that he can to take that all-important next step forward as a star of the game.