Kei Nishikori is on track for London but will he have to “pull up trees” for his season to be deemed a success?

2019 marks five years since Kei Nishikori made it to the final of the US Open.

Kei of course lost in straight sets to Marin Cilic on that day and since then hasn’t been back since.

Kei has had his second best run at majors this year with fourteen wins over the four events with quarter final appearances in Melbourne, Paris, London and a third round exit in New York.

In the seven Masters 1000 events so far this year he has four wins, two of them came in Madrid. Two wins in six tournaments?

What constitutes a good year for Kei? That for me doesn’t stand up.

Quarter final runs at three of the four majors is great and has him currently occupying a spot in the World Tour Finals but it’s good up to a point.

Melbourne – 1-6 1-4 (retire v Djokovic)
France – 1-6 1-6 3-6 ( v Nadal)
Wimbledon – 6-4 1-6 4-6 4-6 ( v Federer)

Even if we go back to start of 2018 in his Grand Slam losses he has won just four sets of tennis in seven defeats.

It’s good to a point but past there it isn’t happening or has happened.

For his season in my opinion to be deemed a success now he has to pull up trees between now and the end of the season. This is the first time since 2010 he has left New York without a top 10 win and could still end up at the World Tour Finals in London.

Since the start of 2017 Kei has…

8 top 10 ranked wins (1 in 2017, 7 in 2018)
16 top 10 ranked defeats

13 top 20 ranked wins
22 top 20 ranked defeats

These aren’t contending numbers and the fact that Kei hasn’t won a top 10 match this year is worrying. All three defeats have been in majors. He has had injuries and missed a bit of tennis and played a challenger event but he hasn’t shown going deep in tournaments.

Maybe I’m being pessimistic?

What does define success?

I don’t see Kei as a contender so is that fact he’s getting to a point and losing a good thing or a bad thing?

I think he is capable of a lot more which we haven’t seen. Since that final five years ago we’ve not seen him back there or even in a Masters 1000 final.

The performance against De Minaur was as bad as it gets. De Minaur did a lot of good but 48% of the point Alex De Minaur won against Kei were unforced errors.

60 unforced errors out of 125 points won.

Numbers like this will happen but the level of performance worried me as much as the body language. I never felt like he wanted it and to be honest I’ve seen it before. There does just seem to be a slump in body language when things don’t go well and picking it up is a problem.

I do think Kei will have to pull up trees now for his season to be a success. All eyes will be on whether he gets to London. I’ll be very interested to see what happens if he gets there with his last top 10 win being against Roger Federer in London.

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