It was in 2008 when a certain Kei Nishikori, 18 years of age and 244 of the world, achieved in Delray Beach one of the most memorable feats of an ATP tournament. He overcame the qualifying stage, saved four match points in the semifinals against Sam Querrey and won the final against the favourite and then world number 12 James Blake. A decade later, it is easy to look back and understand how Kei achieved such a feat, but at that moment nobody could believe that the young man was lifting the trophy.
A magical week that ended with his first ATP crown but one that began with doubts about whether or not to play in Delray Beach. The Japanese did not dare to contest the tournament because he considered that he did not have the level of the circuit - he had lost in the third round of qualifying of the ATP Challenger Tour in Dallas - but his coach did not give him an option. He got ready to play.
With that title to his name, Nishikori became the first Japanese to win and ATP title since Shizo Matsuoka did in Seoul 1992 and the youngest player to win a final since Lleyton Hewitt did it at 16 years old in Adelaide. 10 years later, he is already a mature tennis player in the circuit and is considered the best Japanese tennis player in history. Since that day in Delray Beach, his career has been marked by the constant records he has been accumulating for Asian tennis.
Despite living in the era of the "Big Four", Nishikori is a fighting tennis player who has not been satisfied with staying in the background. He has managed to be a difficult rival for the big four and that is a great merit considering that we are living in an era with little room for surprises, since we are talking about some of the best tennis players in history.
But all his progress was interrupted in 2017-2018 as a result of several injuries. After his victory at Memphis 2016, his record is still anchored in 11 titles, all of them low profile with the exception of the two ATP 500 in Barcelona, his best achievements so far. In 2018 he made huge steps and finished the season again in the top-10 - he had descended months earlier to 39th place - but with no titles except for a Challenger at the beginning of the year.
Brisbane 2019 could be the turning point of his career. The day of his victory put the end to 35 months without any ATP titles and nine consecutive finals lost. The new Nishikori, now in the sixth place in the world ranking, looks to the future with hope.
The tennis player who lives in the United States has been crowned champion of Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell twice (2014-2015) and he played the final of 2016 against Rafael Nadal. His win/loss record in the tournament after having played in seven editions is very positive, with 19 matches won and five lost. Nishikori is motivated to exhibit himself in front of a public that admires him both on and off the court.