Kei Nishikori confident about title tilt after Dubai debut

Kei Nishikori confident about title tilt after Dubai debut
The Japan star won easily in straight sets over the tricky Frenchman. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2019

Kei Nishikori confident about title tilt after Dubai debut

Kei Nishikori confident about title tilt after Dubai debut
  • World No. 6 overcomes windy conditions to book place in second round.

LONDON: Kei Nishikori claimed he is coming into form at just the right time for a tilt at the Dubai title. 

The Japanese star is making his debut at the Aviation Club and his first appearance on Center Court was a relatively easy one as he made light work of Benoit Paire, winning 6-4, 6-3. Nishikori may be top seed but there is still a sense he is feeling his way back to the top of the men’s game having been out for a lot of 2018 with a wrist injury. He fell out of the world’s top 20 for the first time since March 2014 and there wee doubts as to whether he could get back to the level that saw him win 12 titles. 

A strong finish to last year has been backed up with the Brisbane International title, and yesterday he looked very much like the man to beat as he saw off the tricky Frenchman. 

When asked how he was feeling, the world No. 6 said: “I don’t know. I want to say 100 percent. I mean, there is up and down each match, but I think I’m more consistent now. From the end of the year last year, I think I’ve been playing good tennis every match. That’s something I had to work on.

“I think it’s going to be very important that I can able to play 80 percent, 90 percent every match. That’s going to be my goal this year.”

Out early on court the wind, as it has done the past two weeks, made its presence felt leaving conditions tricky. That, allied to Paire’s unpredictable style of play, made Nishikori’s Dubai debut a testing one, something he admitted. 

“(It’s) never easy with this wind, his style of the play. Never easy to feel good rhythm with him. I thought I was serving OK. Everything was good,” the 29-year-old said. “Yeah, never easy to play Benoit, but I think (I played) well.

“Benoit has a great serve, great backhand. Tricky player. Good dropshot, good touch.

“But, yeah, I think played good enough tennis today.”

Apart from his good form, another factor that could help Nishikori is the fact that two top seeds have already left the tournament — Karen Khachanov and Milos Raonic both made shock exits in the first round. But the Japanese star refused to agree that that made his task any easier. 

“I think this wind makes tougher for everybody. I mean, now these days anything can happen,” he said. “Everybody is getting stronger. I’m not really surprised with these results.

“For me, I never see the draw. I don’t even know who I’m playing next. Yeah, I just try to play one match at a time.”