Kei Nishikori’s 2018 season came to an end at ATP World Tour Finals in London with a straight set defeat to Dominic Thiem. With this loss, he ended the season without an ATP tour title, though he did win a Challenger title at Dallas.
Kei can look back at the season gone by with a tinge of regret as he made the finals of three tournaments including a Masters, but failed to win a single one. However, there were a lot of positives for him too.
He had ended the 2017 season early due to injury and had not played any tournament since the Canadian Open. His return to tennis was tentative, and he decided to enter into the Challenger events to begin his 2018 season so that he could ease into competitive tennis rather than entering into more competitive ATP tournaments straight away. His title at the Challenger tournament in Dallas proved the wisdom of his decision.
His first ATP tour tournament was at ATP 250 level at New York, where he managed to reach the semi-final. He lost to Kevin Anderson there and in the opening round of his next tournament, Mexican Open, he lost to Shapovalov.
But it is in the clay season that Kei showed signs of returning to top form. He reached the finals of Monte-Carlo Masters, his fourth career Masters Final, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. He also managed a quarterfinal finish at the Rome Masters, and ran into Novak Djokovic, another player who was also coming back to form after a slow return from injury. At the French Open, he lost to the eventual finalist, Dominic Thiem, in the fourth round.
At the Halle Open, he lost to the rising star, Karen Khachanov, in the second round. But he played some of his best tennis at the Wimbledon Championships to reach the Quarter Final for the first time in his career. He lost to the eventual champion Novak Djokovic there, someone he would lose to again after his impressive run to the US Open Semi-final.
After the US Open, he entered the Moselle Open as the top seed but lost in the semifinal. He then faced a shock defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the final of Japan Open. At Shanghai Masters, he lost his quarterfinal match to Federer, and then lost yet another final to Kevin Anderson at Vienna Open.
In the last Masters' event in Paris, he lost to Federer again in the quarterfinal. But at world #9, he entered into the year-end ATP World Tour Finals, as the world #2 Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament. He achieved a morale-boosting victory against Federer in his opening match in London, only to go down tamely to Anderson and Thiem in the next two matches.
Overall, Nishikori had a good season, where he managed to reach three tour finals, did well in the three grand slams that he played in and also qualified for ATP World tour finals. But the failure to win a single title would be his biggest disappointment this season, something he would surely hope to rectify in 2019.
Predictions for 2019:
Ranking: Nishikori will finish the year among the top 5 in the world.
Titles: He will win at least 2 titles.