Kei Nishikori is hoping that third time’s the charm when he competes at the ATP World Tours Final in London, which starts on Sunday.
Nishikori failed to make it out of the group stages in 2014 and 2015, but is optimistic that he will be able to turn his fortunes around on this occasion.
The world number five is in Group John McEnroe with world number one Andy Murray, US Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.
Nishikori, though, acknowledged that Murray will be his biggest obstacle, but hopes to draw confidence from the fact that he defeated the Scotsman in the quarter-finals of the US Open.
“It’s a very tough group,” said Nishikori. “I’m playing Stan [Wawrinka], who is having a great year, in my first match [on Monday].
“Andy is the new No. 1 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings] and Marin [Cilic] is also in form. But I’m getting used to playing here, this is my third appearance, and it is a big goal for me to do well. It is a great opportunity for me to finish a great season.
“The Davis Cup match [in March] was a turning point for me, even though I lost the match against Andy. I didn’t feel I had much of a chance to win, although I almost beat him [in five sets] and it gave me a lot of confidence. To beat him at the US Open was my second win over him. It showed me that I could play with a lot of patience and confidence over five sets. I was able to play good tennis.”
Nishikori has enjoyed a highly successful year despite only winning one title as his season record stands at 57-18, which puts him in a tie for third with Dominic Thiem for most victories on the ATP World Tour in 2016.
The Japanese sensation has also called on his compatriots to come and support him at The O2 as he bids to become the first player from his country to win the event.
“It’s always nice to have Japanese fans in the stadium,” he said. “I love seeing the Japanese flags. It brings a great atmosphere, in such a great arena. It’s fantastic.”