For the third year running Kei Nishikori has qualified for the world tour finals in London. A former finalist at the US Open in 2014 the Japanese star is yet to win his first major or Masters 1000 title. Now with no Nadal or Federer and Djokovic not right now at his best Kei must show he belongs at the top.
Kei’s top 10 record this year has been poor. 4 wins and 10 losses and for a player ranked at number 5 in the world it should be a better ratio. I like Kei but I’m not feeling the improvement from 2014 to now. Ok he has had his best year on the tour if you look at wins at the major events and Masters 1000 events but success at these tournaments are based on who won not who came close.
He only has one title to his name this year, winning Memphis 9 months ago back in February where he didn’t have to play a player ranked inside the world’s top 50 to win it.
Think back to New York a couple of years ago that was when Kei announced himself at the very top of men’s tennis to get to that first major final suddenly the interest went off the scale. The pressure on Kei is pretty unbelievable he is probably the most recognisable sport star in Japan and he has said in the past he can’t go anywhere without drawing crowds and attention.
I like Kei’s game but I think there is a long way to go still before I put him in the bracket of Andy, Stan and Novak. I find it tough to put my finger on what stands out as there are a few bits I think need slight improvement which is why I can’t really say when I see him at his best in a rally, there are too many inconsistencies but he is capable of quickly pulling off a stunning forehand winner.
Going back to New York but earlier on this year I watched him play against Wawrinka and I couldn’t get my head around what I was watching. Panic, that is what I saw. We started seeing serve and volley which was not working at all and then he was sitting a good few metres behind the baseline (nothing wrong with that) but he wasn’t getting depth on his shots and Stan has the talent and will wait to unleash a backhand or forehand.
You can’t play like this at the O2, the court this year is much faster so you can defend but you have to attack from a defensive position and be effective, there is a lot of running room on the court at the O2 but you want to dictate the points and not be running to stick in rallies for an hour and a half.
I think Kei has a long way to go still, do I think he will make a big showing in London I really don’t think so. I think he needs another major final or a first Masters title to get that confidence and find that arrogance on the court to become a contender but right now I think it’s a way off.