Kei Nishikori Is Back – First ATP Match Win in Over Two Years

Kei Nishikori is a bit of a legend in men’s tennis. In my opinion, he is one of the best players ever to not win a Grand Slam title. With that said, while he might be missing a Grand Slam trophy from his cabinet, he has certainly enjoyed a successful career. In fact, Nishikori has been ranked as high as number 4 in the world, and he has a grand total of 12 ATP titles to his name. Not only that, but specifically for Japanese tennis, he’s actually one of just two men that has achieved a top-five ranking in his career.

Therefore, I find the recent development surrounding Nishikori’s return to the ATP Tour extremely exciting. At 33 years of age, Nishikori is finally reaching the form that he has produced over the years following an injury that caused him to sit on the sidelines for far too long. In case you haven’t followed the story of Nishikori’s injury woes, he had to miss the entire 2022 season due to a necessary hip surgery.

Kei Nishikori ATP Return

And while the recovery from that surgery was always going to take some time, just as he was getting back out there, he sustained yet another injury that turned out to be severe. This was sustained at the very beginning of the 2023 season, and it obviously delayed his return to the tour. With this in mind, following his win against Jordan Thompson in the Atlanta Open on Tuesday, it looks like this horrible chapter in his career might finally be over. 

Because of this, I wanted to quickly fill you in on Nishikori’s return to the ATP Tour, while showing you exactly what has been required to get him there. 

Nishikori Beats Thompson in Atlanta Open to Mark His Return

For a guy that has previously been a top-five player, it must have been torturous to be away from the sport that you love for so long. Not only that but as a direct result of these injuries, Nishikori was taken far away from the kind of tournaments he should really be competing in. We’ve seen this story play out with other greats of this generation as well, with guys like Andy Murray as a prime example. However, just like Murray, Nishikori is a true fighter, and he has now made his official return to winning ways on the ATP Tour.

As mentioned above, I feel that this effort deserves recognition, which is why I’d like to highlight the following three things to show you just how remarkable this achievement is.

He Considered Retiring During the Last Two Years

In a recent interview, Nishikori declared that during his 2+ years away from the ATP Tour, he considered retiring on multiple occasions. Sure, there might be tennis fans out there that say well hey, Nishikori is 33 years of age, so the consideration of retirement is logical. But with guys seemingly playing their best tennis in the mid and even late 30s, if he was to retire during that absence, it would be far too soon. 

Let’s also not forget, the road to recovery after sustaining these injuries becomes even tougher with age. So the fact that he has come back and captured an ATP win is truly fantastic.

He’s Been Forced to Drop Down to Challenger Level

Kei Nishikori has been a top-flight player for many years throughout his career. Due to his level of play and his consistently high ranking, he is a guy that was used to competing in the very top tournaments in our sport. Specifically, this includes the four Grand Slam events, as well as all of the ATP Masters 1000 tournaments that are played throughout the year. And when you’ve been involved with, as well as competed for these titles, it must have seriously hurt to then be competing at the Challenger level due to the expected rankings slide.

Yet Nishikori hasn’t let that sway his ambitions, and he even managed to win a Challenger on his 2023 return back in July. 

Finally – He’s Back Where He Belongs

Nishikori was granted entry into the Atlanta Open thanks to his protected ranking status. Yet as we all know, simply gaining entry doesn’t guarantee that an individual will make the most of the opportunity given. Then again, we are talking about one of the greats of the game here, and Nishikori wasn’t about to let this opportunity slide. He went out there and played his heart out to beat Jordan Thompson 7-6 7-6, which makes it his first ATP win in more than two years. 

And as a reward, he will now play Juncheng Shang in the round of 16.

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