While many are tipping Roger Federer to capture a record-extending Wimbledon title this upcoming fortnight, Kei Nishikori believes there are others who have a real shot at lifting the title at SW19.
Nishikori, who has never made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon in any of his previous nine main draw appearances, admits he has his own struggles on grass – a surface where he has picked up multiple injuries in the part. But he tips other contenders to challenge Federer at the All England Club this year.
“I think Roger and Rafa [Nadal], those two are at a little different level this year. That’s for sure. But, you know, [Marin] Cilic is playing good. He can be really tough opponent on grass,” Nishikori told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.
“He did well last year, too. I mean, Dimi [Grigor Dimitrov] is also good player. I’m sure it’s going to be tough tournament because, you know, Stan [Wawrinka] is not seeded, and [Novak] Djokovic is not top-10 seeded.
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s going to be interesting tournament.”
Wawrinka, who had double knee surgery last August and has played just 14 matches in the last 11 months, is down to No. 225 in the world rankings and drew former semi-finalist Dimitrov in the first round.
Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion, is seeded No. 12 here this year, as he continues to search for his top form.
Cilic is arguably the second favourite for the title having won Queens last Sunday – defeating Djokovic in the final, and having finished as runner-up at Wimbledon last year.
Wimbledon is the only Slam where Nishikori has yet to reach the quarter-finals.
The Japanese former US Open runner-up is seeded 27 in south-west London and opens his campaign against fellow Bradenton-based player, Christian Harrison, who qualified for his first Wimbledon by claiming three victories at Roehampton this week.
After going through no less than 7 surgeries and overcoming a bone infection, @charrison94 has qualified for his maiden #wimbledon, just a few days after cracking the top-200 for the first timehttps://t.co/wVE6zJwpTx
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) June 28, 2018
“I know him a lot actually,” Nishikori said of Harrison, who is the younger brother of world No. 58 Ryan Harrison. “We practice together all the time in the [IMG] academy. We grow up together. It’s not easy when you have to play with good friends.
“But, yeah, I hope I can enjoy the match. Actually first time to play him in an official match, so… It’s going to be exciting. Yeah, hopefully we both play good tennis.”
On his physical issues on the grass, Nishikori said: “I had couple injuries with this surface. You know, I been trying many different things for training off the court.
“Well, I think there is many stop and go here. You got to really use your legs. The point is quick, but it’s different than clay, so…
“Yeah, had a couple issues when I, you know, played this surface. I think I’m getting stronger. Hope this year is going to be okay.”
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