Japan, US Open runner-up, Forbes highest-paid: Everything you always wanted to know about Kei Nishikori (but never had the time to find out) – updated with Atlanta second round win

Kei Nishikori is the highest-ranked ATP player to ever come out of Japan. He is now on his way back to the tour after nearly two years on the sidelines. Here are responses to some common questions you may have about the former world No 4

Kei Nishikori Rogers Cup Kei Nishikori Rogers Cup

You can follow Kei Nishikori on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Where was Kei Nishikori born?

Kei Nishikori was born in Shimane, Japan. He moved to the U.S. at age 14 to train at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He didn’t speak any English when he arrived. Nishikori still trains at IMG Academy, formerly known as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, today.

Why is Nishikori in the news?

After almost two years on the sidelines due to injuries, Nishikori is back on the professional tour. The Japanese player won his first twos match at the Atlanta Open on July 25 and 27, 2023 – his first ATP level wins since October 2021 – beating Australia’s Jordan Thompson and China’s Juncheng Shang.

Nishikori won an ATP Challenger title in June, his first tournament back on the tour.

What was “Project 45?” 

“Project 45” was the code name for Nishikori’s quest to become the highest-ranked men’s player in Japanese tennis history. Previously in Japan, Shuzo Matsuoka was the highest-ranked player, having reached No 45 in the ATP rankings. After reaching the Shanghai semi-finals in October of 2011, Nishikori reached No 30 in the rankings to become the highest-ranked Japanese man in ATP World Tour Rankings history. Matsuoka had reached No 46 on July 6, 1992.

Nishikori went on to peak at No 4 in the world rankings in March 2015.

Who is Nishikori’s coach?

Nishikori is coached by American Michael Chang. The American is a former Grand Slam champion, who is also the youngest man to ever win a major title (Roland-Garros, 1989). Nishikori had also worked with Dante Bottini for several years, but they parted ways last year and Max Mirnyi moved in to share coaching duties with Chang.

Why was Nishikori in the news in 2020?

Nishikori tested positive for Covid-19 on August 16, 2020 and immediately had to go into self-isolation. The world No 31 posted the news on social media and announced his withdrawal from the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

How many titles has Nishikori won?

Nishikori owns 12 singles titles as of July 2023 He has a 12-14 overall record in finals. He has won three titles at Memphis, two titles at Tokyo and two titles at Barcelona. Nishikori has never won a Masters 1000 title.

Kei Nishikori

What is Nishikori’s best performance at a Grand Slam event?

Nishikori made a run to the US Open final in 2014, where he was defeated by Marin Cilic in the final round. Nishikori recorded successive wins over world No 6 Milos Raonic, world No 4 Stan Wawrinka and world No 1 Novak Djokovic, before falling to Cilic in straight sets in the final. He is to this day the only Japanese man to have reached a major final. Nishikori owns two wins over reigning world No 1 players, both over Djokovic. The other one came at Basel in 2011. 

How has he done against the Big Three?

Nishikori owns a 7-38 lifetime record over the Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He owns three wins over Federer, two over Nadal, including a victory in the bronze medal match at the 2016 Olympic Games (the first tennis medal for Japan in 96 years) and two over Djokovic.

Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori on the men's podium at the Rio Olympic Games, 2016

How active is Nishikori on social media?

Kei is very active on social media. He has his own app, keisapp.com, which is available on the Apple app store and on Google play. He also has 528,000 followers on Instagram as of July 28, 2023, and over 977,000 followers on Twitter.

What is Nishikori’s favorite surface?

Good question. He list hard and clay as his favorite surface on his ATP bio. He has appeared in two Masters 1000 finals on clay, and two Masters 1000 finals on hard courts. In addition to his US Open final on hard courts, Nishikori has two more US Open semi-final appearances to his name. He also has three quarter-finals at Roland Garros. 

His career winning percentage on clay (.687) as of July 26, 2023, is actually better than his career winning percentage on hard (.674).

How rich is Nishikori?

Nishikori is very wealthy. He has been consistently ranked among the highest earning tennis players by Forbes. In 2022, he earned over $13.2 million and has endorsement deals with Uniqlo, Japan Airlines and Airweave mattresses amongst others.

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