Nishikori Feels At Home In Miami
World No. 6 faces challenging road to final
Being at the Miami Open presented by Itau is a happy homecoming of sorts for Kei Nishikori. The World No. 6, who has trained in Bradenton for more than a decade, looked forward to the comforts of playing in Florida again despite coming off a career-best quarter-final showing at the BNP Paribas Open (l. to Nadal).
“For me, here is better for my tennis,” he said Tuesday, ahead of the year’s second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. “[In] Indian Wells, [with the high] bounce and a little bit altitude, the ball flies a little more, so I feel a big server has more chance. But here, no altitude. It’s a little bit windy, so it’s tough condition, but I live in Florida too so it’s like home here.”
The 26 year old has been pleased with his form thus far in the season. Mirroring his start to 2015, he enters Miami having reached the quarter-finals or better in four of his five tournament appearances on the season, highlighted by the successful title defence in Memphis.
“I try to play the same like last year,” he said. “My serve is getting better, improving a lot, so it’s great to see that. Try to be consistent with everything – serve, groundstroke, everything – that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Nishikori achieved his best Miami result in 2014, when he took down Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer and Roger Federer in succession before withdrawing with a groin injury prior to his semi-final match against eventual champion Novak Djokovic. When the pair met on court later that year, Nishikori prevailed against the Serbian to reach the US Open final.
The Japanese star has since lost five straight FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings to Djokovic and spoke of the need to take risks in order to have a chance of beating the World No. 1.
“You have to be a little more aggressive when you play Novak,” he said. “He’s very consistent and he doesn’t give you any loose points or any free points, so you have to really work every point and you have to be really focused.”
In order to set a rematch with Djokovic in Miami, both players would need to reach the final. For Nishikori, this could mean defeating World No. 9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Round of 16 and No. 2 Andy Murray, a two-time Miami champion, in the quarter-finals. Potential semi-final opponents include No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, No. 5 Rafael Nadal, No. 12 and Indian Wells finalist Milos Raonic or No. 13 John Isner, whom Nishikori lost to in the Miami quarter-finals last year.