Brissie appearance could mark Nishikori’s return to fitness
JAPAN’S former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori will make the Brisbane International his tournament comeback if he is able to win a fitness battle against the odds.
The Japanese right-hander, who has played the BI in seven of its nine editions, has not played since August because of a damaged tendon in his right wrist and is ranked No.14 after starting the year at No.5.
Nishikori, runner-up at Tennyson last summer, is hop- ing to overcome the injury to join top 10 players Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and defending champion Grigor Dimitrov in the December 31January 7 tournament.
Nishikori’s coach Dante Bottini told an Argentine radio station this week that he did not think he would be ready to play in Australia in January and would miss the year’s first Grand Slam event.
“We understand that it will be for after the Australian Open – I hope it is before, but I think it will not come,’’ Bottini said. “After a month, maybe he can start to hit the ball.’’
It is likely to be a close-run thing for Nishikori to be fit to play in Australia, as he has agreed to be a promoted player for a new ATP tournament in New York from February 11.
Ipswich’s Ash Barty is expected to add local impetus to the BI women’s field after storming to a world ranking of No.23 with her runner-up performance at last week’s WTA Wuhan event in China.
The Hopman Cup, played in Perth in the same week as the Brisbane event, secured Daria Gavrilova, the topranked Australian woman.
“At the end of the year, we’ll work out the schedule and where we want to play,’’ Barty told The Courier-Mail last month. “I love playing at home in Brisbane and hopefully I start the year there and start well.’’
Nishikori and past US Open champions Murray (hip), Novak Djokovic (elbow) and Stan Wawrinka (knee) all missed the year’s last major tournament.
Another regular Brisbane visitor, Milos Raonic, revived the issue of player injury because of the tour schedule after he returned from a seven-week wrist injury lay-off in Beijing this week.
Unlike Nishikori, who had his right arm put in a cast in August, Raonic had minor surgery on his wrist.
The Canadian star made the point that of the top five men’s players from the 2016 year-end rankings he is the only player active late in the 2017 season.
WRIST INJURY: Kei Nishikori.