Brissie ap­pear­ance could mark Nishikori’s re­turn to fit­ness

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - SPORT - PAUL MALONE

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.

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