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Icons of Asia: Kei Nishikori

The only Asian male to ever qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals, Nishikori wrote his name into the record books when he reached the final of the US Open in 2014.

on Day Thirteen of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.

In an era of tennis where size and power is perhaps valued more than finesse, Nishikori is something of a throwback to the heyday of Michael Chang, who has been coaching him for the last two years.

After achieving a combined ranking seventh in the world at junior level, Nishikori turned pro in 2007 and qualified for his first ATP main draw event at the Countrywide Classic later that year.

His first ATP title came the following year, at the tournament at Delray Beach, where he upset American James Blake in the final to become the first man from Japan to win an ATP title in nearly 20 years.

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Nishikori struggled with injuries and form over the next two years, but by 2011 he was a regular in the latter stages of ATP events, even though a second title continued to elude him.

The year 2012 was something of a break-out season for Nishikori – he reached his first grand slam quarter-final at the Australian Open, the last eight at the Olympic Games in London and won the title at the Japan Open, making him the first local player to triumph in Tokyo in the tournament’s history. He finished the year ranked 15th in the world, a career-high.

In 2013 Nishikori continued his march up the world rankings, winning the title at the U.S. National Indoor Championships, but it wasn’t until 2014 – when he started working with Chang – that the diminutive player really came into his own on the ATP Tour.

After reaching the semi-finals at the Miami Masters, he reached his first Masters 1000 final at the Madrid Open, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in a tight three-setter.

The result was enough for him to break into the top 10 for the first time in his career, but his year would improve further…

At the US Open, Nishikori beat Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic in the run-up to the final at Flushing Meadows, before eventually losing in his maiden grand slam title match to Marin Cilic.

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Despite the harrowing defeat, Nishikori became a household name throughout Asia after becoming the first Asian man to reach a grand slam final.

Two more titles followed and he was guaranteed a spot in the Tour finals, where he eventually lost in the semis to Roger Federer.

Nishikori continued where he left off in 2015, moving up to a career-high fourth on the ATP rankings following victories in Memphis, Barcelona and Washington DC.

He started his 2016 season with a quarter-final run at the Australian, before winning in Memphis for a fourth time.

Major achievements

Highest ranking: 4
Career titles: 11
Australian Open: QF (3)
French Open: QF (1)
Wimbledon: Fourth Round (1)
US Open: Final (1)
Tour Final: SF (1)
Olympic Games: QF (1)

Catch the full story of Kei Nishikori and more on Icons of Asia, starting 31 March 12am HKT on FOX Sports Play


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