Games & medals
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Kei NISHIKORI biography
Nishikori is Japan’s finest ever tennis player. The only man from his country ever to break into the top five of the world rankings, he is still regularly ranked within the top 15, and has won 12 ATP World Tour titles.
His greatest moment was probably making it to the final of the 2014 US Open. On his route to the endgame, he defeated world no.1 ranked Novak Djokovic, to become the first Asian man ever to make it to a Grand Slam tournament final. Alas, having done the hard part, he was defeated by Marin Cilic in the final. It’s the closest he’s come to real glory.
At Rio 2016, however, Nishikori once again demonstrated his prowess, and ability to beat the big names. The Japanese right hander lost to Andy Murray in the semi finals, but defeated Rafael Nadal 2-1 in the third place match, securing the bronze medal, and becoming the first Japanese man to win a tennis medal for 96 years. Could he go one better and take a gold medal at Tokyo 2020? It would certainly send the home fans wild.
Nishikori is driven by a lifelong quest to improve his game. He moved to Bradenton, Florida at the age of 14 to get the best coaching available, and has since been coached by Brad Gilbert and Michael Chang.
He is coming into some form, too. At the start of last season, he won the Brisbane International – his first tournament win since 2016. He was defeated in the quarter finals of the French Open by Rafa Nadal, and the quarter final of Wimbledon by Roger Federer.
Nishikori is largely a baseline player, with extremely consistent and fast shots on both his forehand and backhand: many rate his two handed backhand as the best on the tour. He is renowned for his return of serve, and his ability to play defensively and grind his opponents down. A supremely fit player, he relishes five-set matches: has the highest percentage of deciding set wins in the open era.
It could all serve him well in Tokyo. The ambition to win in his homeland can’t be questioned.
“For me, the Olympics will be the biggest event of the year,” he says. “I want to peak for the Olympics, so I may have to change a few things to prepare properly. “Tokyo is very hot and humid in the summer, so I’ll have to be careful.”