MINAS PANAGIOTAKIS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
Tennis is a sport popularly followed across Asia and yet there is no serious challenge coming from that part of the globe. So, for now, Nishikori remains Asia’s best hope at having a Grand Slam winner. Why do we think that the Matsue-born, Florida native can actually pull it off?
He is the first Japanese player ever to break into the ATP Top 10 Singles ranking. And this feat is just the first among many. He’s also the:
- First Asian to reach a Grand Slam Singles Final when he reached the US Open summit clash in 2014, overpowering world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
- First Asian to win ATP Newcomer of the Year, in 2008.
- First Asian to qualify for the elite eight-man ATP World Tour Finals.
- First Japanese to win an ATP event in 16 years when he won the Delray Beach Tournament in 2008 beating top seed James Blake in the final.
- First Japanese to win the Japan Open in its 41-year history, in 2012.
- First Japanese in 81 years to reach a Grand Slam semi final, when he went on to proceed to the US Open final.
Nishikori is reported to possess one of the best backhands in the business, with many considering it to be on par with that of big guns Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. He doesn’t have a strong serve, but more than makes up for it with an excellent return of serve and a tremendous baseline game. The Japanese has a unique style of hitting groundstrokes where he takes the ball early and with a short back swing without compromising on accuracy. This ability helps him generate a lot of space despite being one of the smaller guys on the Tour.
At 25, with nine titles under his belt and the experience of playing at the highest level now, it would be fair to consider Kei as a genuine contender for the Grand Slams. A vast continent waits in hope that its son, at least this time, rises in the West.