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Kei Nishikori targets Grand Slam glory in 2019

Leye Aduloju in News 6 Dec 2018
  • Kei Nishikori has set his sights on winning a first Grand Slam title in 2019
  • Nishikori overcame injury troubles to return to the top ten in 2018
Kei Nishikori. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

World No. 9, Kei Nishikori is targeting Grand Slam glory next season after overcoming serious injury problems to return to the top 10.

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Nishikori had been forced to sit out the final five months of 2017 due to a wrist injury, but he was back to his best by the end of 2018, qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals and making his way back to the top-ten.

The 28-year-old did not feel healthy enough at the start of the year to compete at the Australian Open, opting instead to ease his way back to the sport via the Challenger Tour. He won the Dallas Challenger- the second tournament in his comeback- and then reached the semi-finals in New York in his first tour-level appearance of the season. Despite that encouraging return, Nishikori struggled through the rest of the hard-court season, and had slipped to 39th in the rankings at the start of April.

However, the former world No. 4 rediscovered his form on clay, reaching the final in Monte Carlo, the quarter-finals in Rome and the fourth round at Roland Garros, and he kept rising from there, making the quarter finals at Wimbledon and the semis at the US Open. The Japanese also contested finals in Tokyo and Vienna.

“I was able to bring the level of my tennis up to 100 percent in the second half (of the season),” Nishikori said of his second half resurgence. “I played without pressure this year. I was able to take a full swing at tennis, but I know I need to aim higher next year.”

Defeats in the Tokyo and Vienna finals compounded Nishikori’s dismal record in tour-level finals, as he has now lost nine consecutive championship matches since winning his most recent ATP World Tour title in Memphis in February 2016. He is obviously keen to correct that record, but he has taken aim at an even higher objective in 2019.

“I want to gun for my best, as I always have, and win a Grand Slam title or a Masters title. That is my goal.”

The world number nine also shed more light on his injury ordeal, expressing his initial fears over the career-threatening problem.

“I was scared. The wrist is needed in tennis. I just kept thinking I would always have to play with this feeling of anxiety,” he said. “I went without surgery but I was told there was a possibility that it might happen again. I kept playing with my major goal being a return (to the top of the rankings). I had a feeling throughout this season that I was climbing a staircase, one step at a time.”

He definitely did, and will hope to continue on the upward trajectory in 2019.

Nishikori is often classed among the ‘lost generation’, along with Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic for their inability to win Grand Slam titles, but the Japanese has clearly not given up on that ambition. His best Grand Slam performance remains that US Open runner-up finish in 2014, while he has reached two other major semi-finals, both at the US Open in 2016 and 2018.

Will 2019 be the year when he finally claims his first Grand Slam title?

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Kei Nishikori targets Grand Slam glory in 2019

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