Nishikori climbs world rankings after Djokovic winKei Nishikori won a stunning victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament, before going on to lose 6-1, 6-3 to fourth-ranked Roger Federer in the final.
Before the 2-6, 7-6, 6-0 victory over Djokovic in Basel, Switzerland, on Nov. 5, Nishikori had appeared in awe of the Serbian.
During a Davis Cup playoff in Tokyo in September, 21-year-old Nishikori told reporters: "Djokovic shows no signs of making errors. He hits back no matter what kind of ball comes at him. He's mentally really stable, too."
Djokovic was coming off a temporary break for treatment for back pain but had a formidable record of 67 wins and 3 losses this season before taking on Nishikori. He won three of the last four Grand Slam competitions.
Nishikori's goal for the year was to rank in the top 30 of the ATP world rankings. He reached the 30th spot in October, beating the previous Japanese men's best of 46th achieved by Shuzo Matsuoka and himself, and, following his victory over Djokovic, climbed to 24th on Nov. 7. He is expected to be among the 32 seeds at the Australian Open in January.
Nishikori has beaten three top-10 players this fall, with each victory over a higher-ranked player helping him build his confidence.
2 points from the match with Nole.
Nishikori’s upset victories are no sudden miracleKei Nishikori, who beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament and lost to fourth-ranked Roger Federer in the finals on Nov. 6, didn't suddenly become good overnight.
The efforts Nishikori and his coach put in this year merely began to blossom this fall. The most prominent changes were a new coach and changes to Nishikori's serve.
The 21-year-old is now training under Brad Gilbert, who also coached the world's third-ranked Andy Murray of Britain and other prominent players.
Gilbert first demanded that Nishikori win no matter what it takes by not taking unnecessary risks and reducing mistakes.
There were times when Nishikori's efforts failed to pay off and left him frustrated. Nishikori's wide array of shots and his playful moves--such as his signature jump-shot "Air Kei" in which he would jump before hitting an overhead smash--were what made him an appealing tennis star.
Nishikori's renewed efforts started to produce results at the fall Asian series, which included Thailand, Japan and China, when he learned how to follow his coach's advice without compromising his personality. This gave him a good balance of offense and defense on the court.
What makes the difference between a winner and loser at the world's top level is whether a player can win an extra point at crunch time. Nishikori's reinforced serve came in handy at those crucial moments. He changed his grip, learned the body movements that maximize his strength, and boosted the power of his serve. This resulted in Nishikori increasingly serving aces and boosting his rate of service games won from 68 percent to 77 percent.
Nishikori often scores upset. This is no coincidence, according to his father, Kiyoshi Nishikori, who had been his first coach when Kei began playing tennis at age 5. The elder Nishikori attributes the upset victories to his son's ability to gather information and make necessary adjustments during a game.
"Kei makes strategies using cold logic," Kiyoshi Nishikori says. "He gets used to his opponents' hitting styles and speed during games, and searches for coping strategies during games, too."
This season, Nishikori has won three times against the world's top-10 ranked players. He beat Serbian Novak Djokovic 2-6, 7-6, 6-0, seventh-ranked Tomas Berelych of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, and eighth-ranked Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.
He has won a whopping 78.6 percent of his matches that dragged out to a final set. To describe how significant this feat is, Federer won only 36.4 percent of his final-set matches this season.
The most impressive was Nishikori's semifinal win over Djokovic--who had been undefeated in 12 matches that went to a final set this season--and made him lose his will to fight.
Another major issue to note is Nishikori's injuries that have prevented his career from taking off earlier. He had been away from competition for roughly a year starting in March 2009 due to an injury to his right elbow. This year, he also suffered additional injuries to his right shoulder and other parts of his body.
During the Swiss Indoors award ceremony, which was aired in Japan due to the nation's excitement over Nishikori's semifinal victory over Djokovic, Federer congratulated the young Nishikori for recovering from his injuries and coming back strong.
This must have meant a lot to Nishikori, who has expressed his respect for Federer.
The key to boosting Nishikori's performance even further may be to build up his body to keep up with the world's higher-ranked players. The 178-centimeter Nishikori looked small and lean standing next to the 185-cm Federer at the awards ceremony.
The average height of the 23 players ranked higher than Nishikori is 188 cm and all are older than him. The young hopeful who wowed the audience this week will have to build up his physique to compete with taller and stronger players.
Quick Q&A with Kei NishikoriKei Nishikori was kind enough to answer a few questions of our Quick Q & A after his win in the last round of qualifying at the Winston-Salem Open.
Q. What has been your greatest moment on the tennis court so far?
Kei: I have two - US Open 2008 Round of 16, and in the same year I won first ATP Tournament (Delray Beach), so I had a good memory there.
Q. What is your passion outside of Tennis?
Kei: I play some golf sometimes and reading some books.
Q. What books are you reading?
Kei: It's in Japanese, it’s Japanese mystery.
Q. What is something that annoys you?
Kei: Actually not much, I don’t get much stressed. I can’t think of it, so I guess I don’t have it.
Q. What are you most afraid of?
Kei: Used to be my Dad but not anymore. (laughter)
Q. If there was a fire and you could only save on thing, not a person, what would you save?
Kei: Of course passport. I guess, computer.
Q. If you had one superhero ability, what would it be?
Long story short, Nishikori Kei is the highest ranked Japanese tennis player in history. He surpassed Matsuoka Shuzo's previous record of #46 this year and is currently ranked at #24 as of last week. Kei is also the first Japanese player to beat the current world number 1. He is adorable, talented and deserves so much more love. To find out more about Nishikori, visit Kei's ATP Profile and this old (and poorly formatted orz) pimp post.
Last but not least, check out this adorable interview in which he mentions wanting to have dinner with Nole, liking Koalas and attempts an Aussie accent.
Source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Kei bb would like to thank you for your time with a SMAP song.