OR HOW KEI NISHIKORI WILL BECOME THE FIRST MALE JAPANESE PLAYER TO BE RANKED IN THE TOP TEN!
Kei Nishikori, for you.
He looks rather like a fish, doesn’t he. I’m not one to talk though; on good days I look like a vampire, and on bad ones, a walrus. In fact, making a quick conclusion from today’s title, clearly, the worse someone looks, the better they’re gonna be at tennis!
For example, Roger Federer, who looks great!
Or, Novak Djokovic…
Or, aha, Martin Klizan!
… Or not.
Anyway, back to fish-face Nishikori, and why he’s the most exciting player right now.
He began the season with the Brisbane International Tournament, and was seeded 2nd, right after Roger Mothafuckin’ Federer.
This boy clearly chooses his tourneys well.
With 32 players jostling in the Qualifying round in the Main Draw, Nishikori sailed through into the second round, after receiving a first round BYE, courtesy his ATP ranking, and the fact that everyone else ranked higher than him (‘cept Roger Mothafuckin’ Federer) was at Doha, for the Qatar Exxon Mobil Open, (given its better prize money) or in some rare cases, Chennai, for the Aircel Chennai Open.
All that rest, while the other guys were sweating it out, gave Nishikori quite the boost. He hammered his second round opponent, Matthew Ebden (a native ‘stralyin’) 6-2, 6-4. His quarterfinal match-up against the ever calm Marin Cilic, went well, and then it didn’t, and then it went super well, posting figures of 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.
That three setter must’ve done him a number though, because his semifinal against anotha ‘stralyin didn’t have such a happy ending. His good start failed to convert, and Lleyton Hewitt took back the next two sets with a vengeance, easing into the final against who else but Roger Mothafuckin’ Federer with his 5-7, 6-4,6-3 win over Nish.
(Who also really does happen to look like a Fish…)
The resemblance is…
Hewitt went on to win the tourney 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, but that’s a story for another day.
Back to Nishikori!
Nishikori took his smarting loss to 33 year old Hewitt (practically a grandaddy in Tennis age,) and his 90 points, and headed home to cool his heels till the ‘stralyin’ Open.
He got seeded into the Top Half of the draw – which wasn’t the best place to be, really. Aside from Rafael Nadal (World No. 1) and Roger Mothafuckin’ Federer, Nish also had Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro swimming in his waters.
His first opponent, Marinko Matosevic, yet another ‘stralyin’, (he seems to have found a mating call for them really,) was a hard surfer to swamp. Fish won of course, but after a long, drawn out five-setter of: 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
Take it from the expert, five-setters are a beast to recover from. Especially under the blazing ‘stralyin’ sun.
Nish-the-Fish got his fins together though, and posted a straight sets win over Serb Dusan Lajovic, 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(3). A wobble in the last set indicates Lajovic started to fight the current, but Fish obviously pulled a Gayrados, and hyper-beamed his way into the third round to face American Donald Young.
Young might have had hopes of flying the Stripes and Stars high in the back and beyond of the Down Under, but Fish triple whammied him in straight-sets , with a breadstick and bagel to go: 7-5, 6-1, 6-0.
Finding renewed strength from the rising sun on the hot Melbourne hardtop, Nishikori sliced his way to meet World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, the latter on his way to equal Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam title, and make a new one of being the only player in the Open Era to win every major at least twice.
Nish wasn’t impressed by these lofty ambitions though, and his fillany ways forced Nadal into two tie-breaks, both of which, he eventually lost.
Still, it wasn’t a bad loss, and Nishikori got a further 180 points to add to his tally.
Better than that though, was Rafael Nadal’s eventual defeat to the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, in the final, denying him both his 14th Slam, and new record. Nishikori must’ve given the Swiss a private high-five to make that happen.
And seven days after Melbourne, Nishikori helped his fellow fish defeat Canada 4-1 at Tokyo in the first round of the Davis Cup. The home support – and girlfriend – must’ve counted in his favour.
On Feb 10th, Nish decided to skip Rotterdam, where all the cool kids were heading, and take a Wild Card entry to the US National Indoor Tennis Championships, at Memphis, Tennessee — where the nicer Justin of pop music hails from.
Seeded first, and defending champion, it was sink or swim time for Nish, and dear god, did the man flap his fins.
Once again receiving a BYE into the second round, Nishikori, hammered his German opponent Boris Becker, 6-4, 6-4, wobbled a little bit against Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr., 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, recovered to blast American Michael Russell out of the water, 6-3, 6-2 (despite the latter having gotten rid of pesky Lleyton Hewitt for Fish,) and went on to win the title with a fantastic win against Croat Ivo Karlovic, 6-4, 7-6(0).
Not only did Nish successfully defend his silverware, he also saved 250 points from the previous year, phew.
A week later, Nishikori was at Delray Beach (where he won his first ATP title way back in 2008) and was seeded 3rd.
His first match against Portuguese player Gastao Elias, a qualifier, saw another wobble, but eventual recovery: 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. The back-to-back weeks of tennis got him good though, and he had to retire in the second round with a left hip injury. He subsequently withdrew from the Abierto Mexicano TelCel to give it time to heal before March Madness started.
Indian Wells brought him, once again, seeded into the Top Half – with old favourites, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, and once again a first round BYE. In the second, he met Santiago Giraldo, whom he dispatched with relative ease, 6-1, 6-3.
(Nish and Giraldo would meet each other again, at the Barcelona Open, where the latter would once again lose in straight-sets.)
The third round match-up against the higher ranked Tommy Haas unfortunately didn’t go so well, and Nishikori, fell back into the pond, 6-7(3), 2-6., taking a measly 45 points back home.
‘Cept he didn’t really go back home.
Miami was just around the corner!