2016 Wimbledon player profile: Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori has been having a consistent 2016 season on the ATP World Tour so far. The problem for Nishikori has been staying fit and if he could stay away from injuries, he could potentially challenge the best players in the world on a consistent basis for Masters 1,000s and Grand Slam titles.

He has the game to trouble the big players, as Novak Djokovic found out first hand during the semifinals of the US Open in 2014 but after that victory, Nishikori was flat and unable to produce his best tennis against Marin Cilic in their first Grand Slam final.

In the six Grand Slam tournaments he has played in since then he has reached the quarterfinals on three out of the six occasions, twice at the Australian Open in 2015 and 2016 and the French Open last year.

Notable results to date

Nishikori has a 33-10 win-loss record on the ATP World Tour this season and he has one title  under his belt already. The Japanese number one loves playing in Memphis as he won a historic fourth consecutive title defeating Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

Nishikori with his fourth-consecutive title at the Memphis Open in February (Photo by Stacy Revere / Source : Getty Images)
Nishikori with his  fourth consecutive title at the Memphis Open in February (Photo by Stacy Revere / Source : Getty Images)

The former world number four has produced good results at the significant tournaments so far this year. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the second consecutive year only for his tournament to be halted by the defending champion Novak Djokovic.

The North American hard court swing was impressive for Nishikori, as he reached the quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells losing to former champion Rafael Nadal and at the Miami Open he reached the final defeating four seeded players along the way which were Alexandr Dolgopolov, Roberto Bautista Agut, Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios.

Nishikori was extremely lucky to reach the final in Miami as he saved multiple match points against Monfils in the quarterfinals but yet again once Nishikori reached the final, Djokovic was in his path and he was beaten comprehensively 6-3, 6-3.

During the clay court season, Nishikori displayed scintillating tennis and  he would feel that he was unlucky not to win a title during this part of the season. 

At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, as the two-time defending champion, a resurgent Nadal beat him in a quality final.

The back-to-back clay court Masters 1,000 events, Nishikori went deep in them once again and at the Mutua Madrid Open, wins against Fabio Fognini, Richard Gasquet, and Kyrgios followed before being stopped by the eventual champion Djokovic in the semifinals.

Nishikori must have been frustrated not to have beaten the world number one during this period as the match at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome was his best chance to beat him. 

Djokovic had a long two-set match against Nadal in the quarterfinals but Nishikori could not find a way to beat Djokovic in their high-quality semifinal match in the Italian capital which required a final set tie-break and three hours for Nishikori to go down.

At Roland Garros, Nishikori was looking to reach his second consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year but an inspired Richard Gasquet, in front of a Parisian crowd defeated him in four sets.

Nishikori with Djokovic at the Miami Open (Photo by Mike Ehrmann / Source : Getty Images)
Nishikori with Djokovic at the Miami Open (Photo by Mike Ehrmann / Source : Getty Images)

Best grass results leading to Wimbledon

Following a successful first half of the year, it was time for Nishikori to transition to his least favourite surface on grass.

The ATP 500 grass court event at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle was Nishikori's first event on the grass but after he battled past Frenchman Lucas Pouille in three sets, injury struck Nishikori again, this time, it was his rib  that caused him to withdraw in the second round.

Nishikori is seeded fifth for the third Grand Slam tournament of the year and it remains to seen whether he has fully recovered from his injury or not.

He's not playing at the Aegon Open in Nottingham or any exhibition events so he will be resting and doing some practice on the practice courts before Wimbledon.

Best Wimbledon result

Nishikori's best result at Wimbledon was the fourth round, two years ago back in 2014. 

Seeded tenth at SW19, Nishikori's route to the fourth round was easy in the first two rounds as Kenny de Schepper and American qualifier Denis Kudla were dispatched in straight sets.

The third round match with Italy's Simone Bolelli required two days to finish and it was a five-set epic which Nishikori had to come back twice to win the match after being a set down and two sets to one down.

Nishikori couldn't get past eighth seed Milos Raonic  in the fourth round, who went on to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Nishikori in action at Wimbledon in 2014 against Simone Bolelli (Photo by Dan Kitwood / Source : Getty Images)
Nishikori in action at Wimbledon in 2014 against Simone Bolelli (Photo by Dan Kitwood / Source : Getty Images)

Last year at Wimbledon, Nishikori played Simone Bolelli once again and it was another five set battle but injury halted the progress of Nishikori as injury plagued him yet again which forced him to withdraw from his second round match with Santiago Giraldo.

The third round of Wimbledon at 2012 and 2013 are Nishikori's other be results at SW19, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in 2012 and Andreas Seppi in 2013.

How Nishikori's game translates to this surface

Hard courts and clay courts are Nishikori's favoured surfaces as he is able to defend well on and attack on those surfaces but on grass, Nishikori struggles to defend on grass and over the years, his first serve has improved which could be a weapon on grass.

Nishikori could struggle at Wimbledon if he plays Cilic or Raonic on this surface because if they have a good serving day, they could trouble him and they can move well on the grass, however,  Nishikori is a good returner and retrieves a lot of balls.

The forehand that Nishikori possesses is a powerful weapon and he will need to have that firing on grass because his backhand isn't as strong and since grass is an attacking surface, Nishikori will have to be on the offense.

Michael Chang, Nishikori's coach has only reached the quarterfinals once back in 1994 but having the former French Open champion in his camp, they could work together a plan on how to improve Nishikori's serve placement on this surface.

The main question is, can Nishikori avoid injury to reach his first Wimbledon quarterfinal and maybe beyond?