Nishikori tries to end ti­tle drought at past win site

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori, try­ing to end an 18-month ATP ti­tle drought, hopes re­turn­ing to the scene of his most re­cent out­door crown will pro­vide a pre-US Open spark. The 27-yearold Rio Olympic bronze medal­ist opens with a sec­ond-round match to­day at the ATP Citi Open in his first match on the Wash­ing­ton hard­courts since beat­ing John Is­ner in the 2015 fi­nal for his 10th ca­reer ATP crown.

“I don’t want to think about it too much, but I know this is a tour­na­ment I’ve won be­fore. I do have good mem­o­ries on cen­ter court,” Nishikori said Mon­day. “I think there’s an ad­van­tage for past cham­pi­ons. I’m happy to play in a place I’ve won be­fore.”

Ninth-ranked Nishikori was the 2014 US Open run­nerup, be­com­ing the first Asian man in a Grand Slam fi­nal, and reached the semi-fi­nals last year at Flush­ing Meadows. But he hasn’t won a ti­tle since tak­ing his fourth con­sec­u­tive Mem­phis Open crown in Fe­bru­ary 2016, drop­ping six fi­nals since then-last year at Mi­ami, Barcelona, Canada and the Swiss In­doors and this year at Bris­bane and Buenos Aires.

“I’m al­ways look­ing to win,” he said. “I’m a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed not to be win­ning some tour­na­ments. If I keep play­ing well, I’ll be win­ning some. The chance will come if I keep work­ing hard.” Nishikori took some time off in Ja­pan after mak­ing a third-round Wim­ble­don exit. He had matched his deep­est French Open run with a quar­ter-fi­nal ef­fort at Roland Gar­ros, los­ing to Bri­tish world num­ber one Andy Mur­ray. But he got back to work last week.

“It has been a very good week. Trained a lot,” Nishikori said. “I’m ex­cited to be in this tour­na­ment. The court is a lit­tle faster than two years ago. It’s a lit­tle hot. I make fit my ten­nis in these con­di­tions.”

The wildcard sec­ond seed is among five of the world’s top 11 play­ers in the field, paced by sev­enth-ranked Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem and ris­ing Ger­man star Alexan­der Zverev, ranked a ca­reer-best eighth.

“The field is very strong. It’s go­ing to be tough rounds,” Nishikori said. “I’ll try to force my ten­nis each match. It’s go­ing to be a great tour­na­ment.” Nishikori praised the play of Swiss star Roger Fed­erer, who turns 36 next week after cap­tur­ing his record 19th Grand Slam sin­gles crown at Wim­ble­don.

“Roger is play­ing great again. With his age, it’s some­thing in­cred­i­ble,” Nishikori said. “I want to play a long time but I don’t know if my body can stand up.”

Nishikori says he loves the chal­lenge of play­ing at a time when older stars and ris­ing tal­ents have raised the level needed to stay com­pet­i­tive. “It’s a good thing,” he said. “Com­pe­ti­tion is tough. Not only are the top four play­ing good, young guys are com­ing up. It’s good for ten­nis and good for me. I’m ex­cited. I en­joy the chal­lenge.” — AFP

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