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Elbow injury forces Nishikori out of action for up to three months

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Although he appeared composed, with a mild smile on his face, for young Kei Nishikori, this is probably the biggest disappointment he’s experienced in his tennis career.

Nishikori revealed at a Tokyo news conference on Monday that he suffered a stress fracture in his right elbow on May 20, as a result of a recent MRI checkup by his doctor in charge in New York.

The 19-year-old is expected to be out of action for two to three months.

“This is the biggest injury I’ve had,” Nishikori said. “I’ve hurt my abdominal, lower back and various other places before, but I’ve never taken a rest for such a long period like this. So I’m pretty vexed. My ranking has been going down as well. There’s nothing I can do. . .”

Nishikori’s ATP ranking was once as high as 56th, but dropped to 116th in the latest ATP rankings released on Monday.

It is tough to peer inside this soft-spoken Japanese talent’s mind, not because his ranking was has plummeted but rather because he’d been working on getting back on track by rigorous rehab and training in Florida.

But what happened to him now will force him to miss two of the biggest tournaments he was looking forward to participating in.

First, Nishikori decided on May 19 to put off coming back to the court in the ongoing French Open because he still had a little pain and he thought he wouldn’t be strong enough physically to compete.

And now, after the more serious injury revealed, he will have to miss Wimbledon, which begins in late June, as well.

“I was told to rest by my doctor, that I have an inflammation (in my right elbow) after the tournament in Indiana Wells (BNP Paribas Open) in March. And I rested for eight weeks,” Nishikori said. “And then, I started practicing three weeks ago for the French Open, which I was looking forward to.”

“Then, I was going to go to the Wimbledon. But as I went to a checkup, (my elbow) turned out to have a stress fracture.”

Asked if the fracture occurred in exactly the same spot, Nishikori’s agent, Hideyuki Sakai, said that it wasn’t certain because the actual medical certificate hasn’t been delivered to Nishikori yet. But he added that it was in a place that was difficult to detect, even on an MRI.

Nishikori will be in Japan for the next few weeks, visiting his native Shimane Prefecture and Tokyo and spending time with his family, before returning to the United States for another checkup in New York.

Depending on the result of the MRI, they will come up with plans for his return, consulting with his medical team, according to Sakai. And Nishikori may try to participate in the U.S. Open (Aug. 31-Sept. 13).

“Since I tasted this much frustration this time, I will be able to enjoy playing when I come back,” said Nishikori, who was selected the 2008 ATP Newcomer of the Year and the first Asian to earn the accolade. “For now, I’d like to focus on resting my brain as well as my body, and perform to more than 100 percent of my ability the next time I play.”

Sugiyama ousted

PARIS (Kyodo) Ai Sugiyama lost to Aravane Rezai of France 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the French Open on Monday.

Rezai needed just over an hour to take care of Sugiyama, having won her first career WTA Tour singles title two days ago at the Strasbourg International.

The 33-year-old Sugiyama made her 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament appearance, a record for both men’s and women’s tennis.