Monday, January 23, 2012
Kei Nishikori reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open with an exhausting 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Nishikori will next play Andy Murray on Wednesday.
Whether he’ll be able to recover in time for the contest is the biggest question. Nishikori tussled with Tsonga for 3 1/2 hours in the direct sun with temperatures reaching 34C (93F)—his second five-set match of the tournament.
“(My previous) best result is 2008 US Open round of 16. That was couple years ago. And I played well end of last year, and now it's like this. So, yeah, I feel I'm stepping up,” Nishikori said after qualifying for his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
“Of course, I want to finish three set. I started slow I think today. I was missing a lot, a lot of unforced errors (in the) first set, then start playing well in second set,” he surmised.
“But that was (my) second win five set these two weeks. Yeah, I'm very confident.”
“Andy, we played last year, end of last year. He kind of destroyed me,” Nishikori said of his 6-3, 6-0 drubbing by Murray in the semifinals at the Shanghai Masters. “Yeah, it’s going to be tough, but I try to do my best tennis.”
The result is a major one for tennis in his homeland. Not since 1932 has a Japanese match reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Nishikori has been one of the more popular players at this year’s tournament, his profile on this website being among the most accessed of all players. No doubt this result will see him attract even more hits as he prepares for a quarterfinal showdown with Andy Murray, who “kind of destroyed” him in their last match.
But he insists he feels no pressure despite the enormous interest in his run being generated back home, including receiving texts of encouragement from previous top 50 compatriot Shuzo Matsuoka.
“I never feel the pressure. You know, it's (a great) honour to make a lot of history, to be No.1 player in Japan. But that never gives me the pressure,” he said.
“Hopefully people, especially kids, start playing tennis (in Japan). But first of all I have to play well and I have to give them good news, to Japan. You know, if that helps Japan, I'm really happy.”