Nishikori Closing On Masters 1000 Goal
Amid all the hype surrounding Novak Djokovic’s section of the draw being chock full of former champions at the BNP Paribas Open this week, fourth seed Kei Nishikori finds himself the man in waiting. The Japanese star turns his pursuit of a maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title to the Californian desert and is seeded to meet whoever emerges from that heavy quarter.
Nishikori readily admits there are a mountain of obstacles to overcome before he would even turn his sights to that semi-final clash. And after mixed results on the Latin American clay leading in, he gave himself extra time to settle in ahead of the season’s first ATP Masters 1000 event.
“I’m feeling very good,” Nishikori, a quarter-finalist at last year’s event, said. “I had a lot of time after Rio so I was working really hard. I had a couple more days here to adjust to this surface.
“It was a big decision not to play Memphis but I think it was a good experience. The condition was a little bit tough in South America. I thought it was a good two weeks even though I lost first round and lost a final. I hope I can do well here and Miami now.”
Nishikori believes he is gradually closing the gap on the Big Four’s dominance of the ATP Masters 1000 events. It is as much about mental inroads as technical.
“Those guys have a lot of experience,” he said. “They know how to raise their level in the match and we’ve got to fight for those tough moments.
“I’m working on a bit of everything. Tennis-wise I think my serve, strokes – I’ve still got to make some adjustments and mentally I have to be strong to win big tournaments like this.
“You usually have to play the tough guys second or third match and conditions are not that easy. These two tournaments are 1.5 weeks but you have to play tough opponents almost every day so you have to be really mentally and physically tough. To win the Masters you have to beat maybe Djokovic and Andy and some of those top 10 players.”
The fourth seed would likely meet sixth seed Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals with 14th seed Lucas Pouille his seeded round of 16 opponent. He will meet either Daniel Evans or Dustin Brown in his first match.