Kei Nishikori called his loss at Monday’s U.S. Open final an important step in his career when he arrived in Japan on Saturday.
“The frustration of losing the final was big, but it marked my taking a big step in my tennis career,” Nishikori told a news conference after arriving at Narita Airport.
“I feel I am just a little bit closer to achieving my dream of becoming No. 1 in the world.”
On his arrival, Nishikori, who is now ranked eighth in the world, received a bouquet of flowers from Japan Tennis Association chairman Nobuo Kuroyanagi. Roughly 200 fans were on hand to greet Nishikori, who stopped to sign autographs and pose for photos.
“This is the greatest welcome I’ve ever received,” said the 24-year-old, who defeated three top-10 players, including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, en route to the final.
“It makes me happy that so many people came to wish me well. It confirms the magnitude of what I’ve done.
“This is no guarantee of success in the future, but I will practice hard.”
Nishikori, who had to battle through two straight five-set matches that lasted over four hours each to reach his semifinal against Djokovic, said he gained belief in his durability. Often derailed by niggling injuries, his participation at the season’s final major had been in question after suffering a toe injury.
“Being able to win those five-set matches and defeat three top-10 players gave me confidence,” he said. “It gave me confidence that I could endure physically and through it all, play my kind of game.
“Obviously, I won’t have a chance to win a major this year, but I will give it my all through (the end of the season in) November and I will be aiming for victories in the majors next year and the year after.”
Nishikori is slated to play in Kuala Lumpur from Sept. 22 at the Malaysia Open and return to Japan for the Rakuten Japan Open starting on Sept. 29.