SONY ERICSSON OPEN 2012
Catching Up With... Kei Nishikori
by Matt Fitzgerald|
Japan’s Kei Nishikori is the youngest player ranked inside the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings, entering Miami at a career-high No. 16. After becoming the first man from his country to reach the final eight at the Australian Open in 80 years, the 22 year old will no longer be overlooked by his competitors.
SonyEricssonOpen.com sat down with Nishikori on Saturday to discuss his recent achievements and his decision to play on clay in February.
This event has significant meaning to you as it was a platform for tsunami relief effort in 2011. How does it feel to be back a year later?
It feels good. Just one year ago, some really bad things were happening in Japan. Now, it’s getting better, but there are still a lot of people struggling. I’m happy to play here again and it’s important that I play well and have a good result.
In Melbourne, you had your best Grand Slam result to date, advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals. What worked well for you during that run?
I played really good the whole tournament. My body is stronger now, so I wasn’t dying on the court after playing a lot of long matches. That helped me get to the quarter-finals.
You have since cracked the Top 20. Talk about the difficulty of trying to break into a new rankings group as you continue to move up the charts.
From now on, I have to get 100 or 200 points at each event to get a higher ranking, so it’s going to be really tough. I have to beat a lot of Top 10 guys. It’s going to be a big challenge for me, but I’m doing well. I’ve had a good start this year, so I hope I can stay like this, stay healthy and have good results the next couple months.
Have you picked up any Spanish now that you've been working with your coach Dante Bottini for some time?
Haha, just some easy words, like ‘hola’ - I don’t know very much.
Does he talk in Spanish around you often and does he want you to learn it?
Not much. I’ve started saying ‘Vamos!’ because of him.
You opted to play the “Golden Swing” last month. What went into the decision making process to switch surfaces?
I thought it was good preparation for Europe. I will play Monte-Carlo for the first time next month and 4-5 tournaments in a row on clay after that tournament. I haven’t played many clay-court events in my career, so I thought it was good for me to get ready.
If I were to visit you in Bradenton for the day, where would you take me?
Of course, there is the IMG Academy, which has so many things you can see. There are all the sports besides tennis, like golf, soccer and baseball. There’s also a beach 15 minutes from my house, so it’s close. It’s really calm there.
… and where is the best place in the area to grab some sushi?
I go to Sarasota, which is a half hour away, and there’s one restaurant called Utamaro. I like to eat there once a week.
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