Following a breakthrough year on the ATP World Tour, Kei Nishikori will look to carry that momentum forth into 2015 as he commences his season at the Brisbane International. The Japanese No. 1 will begin his tournament campaign against Steve Johnson, whom he has only encountered once previously on the professional circuit. Nishikori leads the head-to-head series 1-0.
After reaching the final of the US Open and finishing his season amongst the elite-eight at the World Tour Finals, Nishikori finally believes that he belongs amongst the upper echelon of the competitors on the ATP World Tour. Although he did not manage to win a Grand Slam in 2014, he hopes to duplicate his US Open efforts and also win a Masters 1000 title in the coming season.
“I had great preparation in Florida this off-season,” he said at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp on Tuesday. “I think the first couple of tournaments of the year are very important [in order] for me to gain a little more confidence.
“I want to do well in the Grand Slams, maybe get to a semi-final or a final if I can. Maybe win a [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000 title. That’s the next goal for me.”
World No. 27 Steve Johnson began his season in Brisbane on Monday, where he defeated local favourite Marinko Matosevic 2-6, 7-6(0) 7-5 in a scrappy comeback effort. The American hit 14 aces and won 78% of his first service points to finish the contest on a high note. He also saved 4 crucial break points during the match.
This marks just the second time that Nishikori and Johnson will meet on the professional tour, with the Japanese No. 1 leading the head-to-head series 1-0. That lone encounter took place at Halle last season, which makes this their first ever hard court meeting. Given Nishikori’s success on this surface, he should have the advantage against Johnson on Wednesday.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Three Sets