Washington - Japan's Kei Nishikori, trying to end an
18-month ATP title drought, hopes returning to the scene of his most recent
outdoor crown will provide a pre-US Open spark.
The 27-year-old Rio Olympic bronze medallist opens with a
second-round match Tuesday at the ATP Citi Open in his first match on the
Washington hard-courts since beating John Isner in the 2015 final for his 10th
career ATP crown.
"I don't want to think about it too much, but I know
this is a tournament I've won before. I do have good memories on centre
court," Nishikori said on Monday.
"I think there's an advantage for past champions. I'm
happy to play in a place I've won before."
Ninth-ranked Nishikori was the 2014 US Open runner-up,
becoming the first Asian man in a Grand Slam final, and reached the semi-finals
last year at Flushing Meadows.
But he hasn't won a title since taking his fourth
consecutive Memphis Open crown in February 2016, dropping six finals since then
- last year at Miami, Barcelona, Canada and the Swiss Indoors and this year at
Brisbane and Buenos Aires.
"I'm always looking to win," he said. "I'm a
little disappointed not to be winning some tournaments. If I keep playing well,
I'll be winning some. The chance will come if I keep working hard."
Nishikori took some time off in Japan after making a
third-round Wimbledon exit. He had matched his deepest French Open run with a
quarter-final effort at Roland Garros, losing to British world number one Andy
Murray. But he got back to work last week.
"It has been a very good week. Trained a lot,"
Nishikori said. "I'm excited to be in this tournament. The court is a
little faster than two years ago. It's a little hot. I make fit my tennis in
The wildcard second seed is among five of the world's top 11
players in the field, paced by seventh-ranked Austrian Dominic Thiem and rising
German star Alexander Zverev, ranked a career-best eighth.
"The field is very strong. It's going to be tough
rounds," Nishikori said. "I'll try to force my tennis each match.
It's going to be a great tournament."
Nishikori praised the play of Swiss star Roger Federer, who
turns 36 next week after capturing his record 19th Grand Slam singles crown at
"Roger is playing great again. With his age, it's
something incredible," Nishikori said. "I want to play a long time
but I don't know if my body can stand up."
Nishikori says he loves the challenge of playing at a time
when older stars and rising talents have raised the level needed to stay
"It's a good thing," he said.
"Competition is tough. Not only are the top four
playing good, young guys are coming up. It's good for tennis and good for me.
I'm excited. I enjoy the challenge."