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Nishikori Targets Prolonged Top 10 Stay

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Nishikori© AFP/Getty ImagesKei Nishikori is coming off his first clay-court title in Barcelona.

Kei Nishikori has surprised himself with his success this season. Hot on the heels of winning his first ATP World Tour clay-court in Barcelona, the Japanese is contemplating the prospect of very soon becoming the first from his nation to rank inside the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

And if he gets there, he intends to stay there for the long haul. 

Talking to ATPWorldTour.com on Sunday ahead of the Mutua Madrid Open, Nishikori admitted, “It was a big surprise for me to win a clay-court tournament, my first clay-court title. All the Spaniards and Europeans were playing there and it's not easy to win a [ATP World Tour] 500. I didn't play Top 10 players, but I still think it was a good week for me. I'm feeling confident and playing well, so hopefully I can do well here.”

However, the 24 year old is mindful that he has been in this position before. One year ago, Nishikori beat Roger Federer to reach the quarter-finals at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament and by June was on the verge of the Top 10, sitting at No. 11 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But he struggled to maintain his form for the remainder of the season.

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This year, Nishikori has made an impressive start to the season with former World No. 2 and 1989 Roland Garros champion Michael Chang in his corner. As well as victory in Barcelona, Nishikori won another ATP World Tour title in Memphis (d. Karlovic) and beat Federer to reach the semi-finals in Miami. His early season success makes him hopeful of securing one of the coveted eight spots at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

"For sure, [Chang] is giving me good improvements,” said Nishikori. “My tennis is getting better and stronger, especially with him. He's not here this week, but it's going well with him. He's given me good tips that I need to work on. We have similar playing styles, so he knows what I need to work on. 

"My next goal is to get into the Top 10,” continued the right-hander. “It's not going to be easy and my goal isn't just to stay there for one week. Hopefully I can keep that ranking all the time. I'm getting close. Hopefully I can do it soon.

"I feel very strong right now, especially after winning Barcelona. I had the injury in Miami that was very unfortunate. Hopefully I can stay healthy for a while now and do well in every tournament. I hope I can qualify for the [Barclays ATP World Tour Finals]. That's going to be a big goal.”

Seeded 10th at the Mutua Madrid Open, Nishikori is due to open his campaign against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig.

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