Fifteen years ago, Kei Nishikori captured 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 returned to Delray Beach next month, but he will not be competing at the ATP 250 event.
The Japanese delayed his return again after struggling with 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 know when we’ll see him on court again.
The injury-prone Japanese underwent hip surgery in January last year. Kei was number one in the world. 53 in October 2021, climbing up the rankings before experiencing another setback due to injury. Nishikori earned 29 wins 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 surgery on his right elbow in October. The Japanese played just six matches in September 2020, struggling to find form and losing to Stefano Travaglia in the second round at Roland Garros.
Nishikori made a further comeback in early 2021 and played 43 matches. He lost all three meetings at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open before reaching the Rotterdam quarterfinals, losing to Borna Coric in two tiebreakers.
Kei Nishikori last played in October 2021.
Kei was through to another quarterfinal in Dubai and moved back into the top 40 with those points. Rafael Nadal stopped him in Barcelona after a great battle, and the Japanese fell to Alexander Zverev in three notable events on clay in Madrid, Rome and Paris.
The grass swing saw Nishikori win two matches, looking his best at the local Olympic event in Tokyo. Kei picked up three wins to advance to the last eight and move closer to a medal. Still, the world doesn’t. 1 Novak Djokovic proved too strong after beating him 6-2, 6-0 in 70 minutes.
Kei traveled to Washington and took his form from Tokyo to reach the first semifinal of the season. Nishikori lost to Mackenzie McDonald in the closing stages of the third set and missed out on a chance to challenge 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 semifinal duel, two rivals met in the third round and Novak prevailed 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 after saving 11 of 13 break points. As it turned out, Kei played just one more tournament after this valiant effort, suffering an early defeat at Indian Wells and ending the season.
The Japanese underwent hip surgery in January last year and has not played since, missing out on all ATP points and missing out on a spot on the ATP ranking list for only the second time in his career.