Fifteen years ago, Kei Nishikori claimed his first ATP title in Delray Beach 2008 at 18 years and one month. Thus, the Japanese became the youngest ATP champion since Lleyton Hewitt in Adelaide 1998! Kei should have made a comeback in Delray Beach next month but will not compete at the ATP 250 event.
The Japanese delayed his return again after struggling with an ongoing injury. Kei left the ATP ranking list in October last year after not playing since Indian Wells 2021. Nishikori is still dealing with a foot injury, and it’s hard to tell when we will see him on the court again.
The injury-prone Japanese underwent hip surgery in January last year. Kei was world no. 53 in October 2021, climbing through the rankings before experiencing another setback due to an injury. Nishikori scored 29 victories in 2019 and competed at the US Open as a top-10 player.
He lost to Alex de Minaur in the third round and underwent right elbow surgery in October. The Japanese played only six matches in September 2020, struggling to find form and losing to Stefano Travaglia in the Roland Garros second round.
Nishikori made a fresh comeback at the start of 2021 and played 43 matches. He lost all three encounters at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open before reaching the Rotterdam quarter-final, falling to Borna Coric in two tie breaks.
Kei Nishikori last played in October 2021.
Kei was in another quarter-final in Dubai and returned to the top-40 with those points. Rafael Nadal halted him in Barcelona after a great battle, and the Japanese fell to Alexander Zverev in three notable clay events in Madrid, Rome and Paris.
The grass swing saw Nishikori winning two matches, looking better at the home Olympic event in Tokyo. Kei scored three victories to advance into the last eight and move closer to a medal. Still, world no. 1 Novak Djokovic proved too strong after beating him 6-2, 6-0 in 70 minutes.
Kei traveled to Washington and carried his Tokyo form to reach the first semi-final of the season. Nishikori lost to Mackenzie McDonald in the third set’s closing stages and missed a chance to fight for the trophy. Making one last push, Kei kept Novak Djokovic on the court for three and a half hours at the US Open.
Seven years after their semi-final duel, two rivals met in the third round, and Novak prevailed 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 after saving 11 out of 13 break points. As it turned out, Kei played only one more tournament after this valiant effort, suffering an early Indian Wells loss and finishing the season.
The Japanese underwent hip surgery in January last year and has not played since, losing all the ATP points and missing a spot on the ATP rankings list only for the second time in a career.