Kei Nishikori heaped praise on his fellow Japanese player Naomi Osaka and believes the 20-year-old will crack the top-10 soon.
Osaka, currently ranked No. 21 in the world, is enjoying a breakthrough season having claimed the Indian Wells title last March.
While Nishikori, a former US Open finalist, is like a rock star in Japan, he tips Osaka to experience similar success, and says she’s gaining popularity back home.
“It’s very great for Japan tennis. The way she plays, I think she has very bright future,” Nishikori said in Madrid following his straight-sets loss to Novak Djokovic in the first round on Monday.
“Big serve, big forehand. She can really play with top-level players. I’m sure she’s going to be top 10 soon. Yeah, hope to see her winning Grand Slams in the future.”
Nishikori, who was out with a wrist injury from August 2017 until the end of January 2018, is still on the comeback trail and admits he is not feeling 100 per cent yet.
His wrist was taped in his match against Djokovic on Monday, for the first time since he returned from injury.
“Actually first time after coming back injury because it was little better with the tape. It’s not the best way to tape, better without. I kind of have to this week,” said Nishikori, who is currently ranked No. 20 in the world.
“My wrist is not 100 per cent yet, but close to playing enough tennis. I think I need couple more weeks to get used to playing on clay, as it causes more damage to my wrist, play more spin.
“But it’s not too bad. I recover from last week. I love these two tournaments (in Barcelona and Madrid). Unfortunate this year, but hopefully I do well next year.”
Nishikori was unlucky to draw the 10th-seeded Djokovic in the first round, and the result was an early exit at a tournament where he had previously reached the final.
“I’m expecting tough draw every round because I don’t have seeded this year I think. Well, yeah, I knew he wasn’t playing really well last couple weeks. But if something clicks for me him, he’s going to come back again to top 10 level,” Nishikori said of Djokovic.
“I think he was playing better after first set. I think I lost couple important points. I wasn’t playing deep. I could play little better. But I think he was playing good tennis today.”
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