LONDON - Kei Nishikori said Friday he was “lucky” to be at the ATP Finals after clawing his way up the rankings to reach the elite-eight man event after a lengthy injury layoff.
Nishikori qualified for the tournament, which starts at O2 Arena on Sunday, when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew due to a right knee injury.
“Lucky for me,” he said. “I couldn’t really see that happening at the beginning of the year. Maybe until Monte Carlo I was playing terribly and didn’t feel like I had any confidence and I wasn’t playing good tennis at that time.”
Nishikori returned to action in January after a five-month absence due to a right wrist injury and fell to No. 39 in the ATP rankings, his lowest position since 2011.
The 28-year-old said his confidence increased after the French Open and Wimbledon. He went on to reach the semifinals at the U.S. Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
“I’m really happy that I’ve been playing really good tennis for the last couple of months after the U.S. Open and I hope I can have one more good week next week here,” he said.
Nishikori opens against world No. 3 Roger Federer and knows it’s a tough assignment after two recent losses against the Swiss star.
“I lost to him in Shanghai and Paris recently so I’ve got to really make adjustments on Sunday but I always enjoy playing Roger,” said Nishikori.
Federer has won four titles this year, including a second consecutive Australian Open, and stands on 99 career singles titles — second only to retired American Jimmy Connors, who amassed 109.
“I don’t think it matters really where I win my 100th as long as it’s going to happen at one point,” said the 37-year-old, who has not won the ATP Finals since 2011.
“That’s going to be exciting. I think if I won here it’s more about winning the World Tour Finals and not about winning my 100th.”