Kei Nishikori has already set major goals for his comeback to the ATP tour. The Japanese last played a competitive match back in October 2021 before suffering a hip injury that required surgery. However, he recently shared some positive news with his fans, posting visuals of himself in training.
Nishikori, who has dropped to No. 84 in the ATP rankings, aims to make his comeback step by step with the eventual goal of playing the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the latter stages of big tournaments.
Speaking during a recent press conference where he announced the renewal of his contract with UNIQLO, Kei Nishikori expressed that his initial target is to climb up the rankings and get back into the top 10. By doing so, he hopes to avoid drawing players like Nadal and Djokovic in the early rounds.
"As I said earlier, first of all, I want to return to the ranking so far. First, I still have some goals so that I can return to the top 10, but eventually I will return to that position," Kei Nishikori said about his comeback plan.
"So that I can fight in the second half of the tournament instead of the current (Rafael) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic in the first round. It is a big feeling that I want to return to that place again," he added.
The 32-year-old last played at the Indian Wells Masters in October last year, where he bowed out in the second round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Dan Evans. Shortly before the start of the 2022 season with the Australian hardcourt swing, Nishikori announced his withdrawal from all tournaments in the first half of the season, revealing that he would require hip surgery.
The former US Open finalist said that he aims to be match ready in time for the US Open in late August. Nishikori said that he would love to play his home tournament, the Rakuten Open in Tokyo in October, as part of the initial phase of his comeback.
"If all goes well, I might be able to play the US Open this year. I’m trying to be ready in time for the Rakuten Japan Open in October if it is held this year. I don’t think I have ten more years in my tennis career, so I want to live each day to the fullest," Nishikori said.
"When I come back again, I want everyone to see my tennis first" - Kei Nishikori
Nishikori also opened up about the time he was out injured. He attended a few junior tennis camps in Japan, drawing motivation from watching some of the youngsters train and play. The former World No. 4 also exuded confidence around his own game and is excited to once again show his skills on the court
"This time, there was a time when I was injured and I was in Japan quite a bit, so I went to various places to see the junior camp and the level of junior players, and practiced together in that."
"I was able to get that kind of motivation from them, and when I come back again, I want everyone to see my tennis first," the Japanese expressed.
Nishikori still has a lot that he wants to achieve at the highest level. However, he did give some insight into his future plans after he is done playing the sport. Among those is the dream of helping the next generation of players.
"One day, I have a dream of teaching children. However, I'm the type who wants to concentrate on active duty, so I can't imagine doing various things dexterously now," Nishikori said.