Ahead of the ATP World Tour Finals, which will be played from 9 to 16 November, we come back on the season of each of the eight singles players who will take part in the Final Showdown, from number 8 to number 1.
4: Kei Nishikori
A year of history
Since the beginning of his career, Kei Nishikori is rewriting not only Japanese tennis history, but also Asian tennis history, and in 2014, he took giant steps to become the best Asian player of all times.
The key to his success? Having added the great Michael Chang to his coaching team, working alongside Argentinian Dante Bottini, his coach of the last three years.
With Chang’s input and the constant work realised with Bottini, Nishikori had a flaming start to the season: semifinals in Brisbane (where he lost to the eventual champion, Lleyton Hewitt), round-of-16 at the Australian Open (where he lost to Rafael Nadal, who was the tournament’s runner-up), two important wins in the first round of the Davis Cup against Canada, and his first title of the season in Memphis. A few weeks later, he reached the semifinals of the Masters 1000 of Miami (where he lost to… the eventual champion, Novak Djokovic) and just after, he won his second title of 2014 in Barcelona, before dominating Rafael Nadal for a set and a bit in the Madrid final, in which he ended up retiring due to an injury.
This injury prevented him from doing himself justice at the French Open, where he bowed out in the first round, just after having entered the top 10 for the first time.
After an average grass-court season, Nishikori was forced to skip the two North American Masters 1000 due to a toe injury, which required minor surgery. Despite still recovering from this issue, he took part in the U.S. Open, where he played the best tournament of his career, with back-to-back marathon wins against Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka, before defeating World n°1 Novak Djokovic to become the first Asian male player to reach a Grand Slam final. The title, however, was not to be his. Nervous, exhausted, he was defeated in straight sets by a near-perfect Marin Cilic.
Back in the top 10, the Japanese shone in the Asian swing, where he won back-to-back titles in Kuala Lumpur and at home in Tokyo but, tired, he lost to Jack Sock in his Shanghai début, and chose to pull out of the Valencia Open in order to recover.
Upon his return, in Paris, he became the first Asian to ever qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals after a 2h43 epic win over David Ferrer, as well as the first player from Asia to ever enter the top 5 in the ATP rankings.
Since Project 45, Kei Nishikori keeps on writing history, one that could very well bring him all the way to the top.
(Photos: Getty Images)