More Sports / Tennis

Kei Nishikori confident he is returning to full fitness

Kyodo

Former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori appears to be on his way to a full recovery from the wrist injury he suffered last August after claiming his first ATP title since winning the Memphis Open in 2016.

Nishikori, who dropped to No. 27 after a five-month injury layoff, defeated American Mackenzie McDonald on Saturday to win the RBC Tennis Championships, an ATP Challenger Tour event in Dallas.

The 28-year-old said he felt uncomfortable during the first three matches, but lost just one set in his five-match title climb and seemed to improve every day.

“I started to feel confident in my strokes,” Nishikori said. “I’m getting closer to ideal (play) now that I’m able to play better.”

The Japanese star injured his right wrist while practicing at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati last August and was forced to cut his 2017 season short.

After treatment and rehabilitation, he decided to skip the Australian Open and opted to start his 2018 season with second-tier Challenger events on his road to recovery. He returned to competitive action at the Oracle Challenger Series in Newport Beach, California, but lost his debut to a qualifier.

He was granted a wildcard for the Jan. 29-Feb. 3 tournament in Dallas, his first Challenger Tour final since 2010 and first trophy match since he lost to Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the Argentina Open a year ago.

“I can’t say that I’m 100 percent, but I’m playing a lot of good tennis,” he said. “If I can, I want to get back into the top 10 (of the world rankings) but every tournament is a challenge. I want to regain my senses.”

Nishikori will continue his comeback at his ATP World Tour return at the inaugural New York Open which starts Feb. 12. The event replaced the Memphis Open which he won four straight times from 2013 to 2016.