Nishikori notes improving performances

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Kei Nishikori sees himself getting closer to the top players and his goal of reaching the Top 10, he said in an interview with the Japan Times.

"I don’t know if I am close to the Top 10, but I’m playing well and won my first title this year," said Nishikori, who is now No. 17 after reaching No. 11 last June. "This year in Miami I beat two Top 10 guys."

After defeating David Ferrer and Roger Federer to reach the Miami semifinals, Nishikori had to withdraw with a groin injury. The 24-year-old Japanese has had physical problems for much of his career.

"I think I am training well," he said. "The tour is very tough. You can’t get much time to train and rest. I have to take care of my body. When you play top guys you have to play very intense games and your body gets more damage."

Despite his injuries, however, Nishikori is challenging top players more frequently. He says his 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 loss to Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the Australian Open was an important moment, showing him that he could hit with the No. 1 even as one of the smaller players on the tour.

"I was playing really aggressive. It was a close match. I lost in three sets, but it was a close match. I feel like I am almost there to get to that level," he said.

Some of that is the result of working with part-time coach Michael Chang, who was there at that match.

"He is telling me a lot about his experience. He was in the Top 10 for a long time and he is changing my game as well. It is going well," said the Memphis champion.

"These last couple of years I have tried to be at the same level. I think I can beat those guys. So I try to believe in myself and try to not think about the opponent and just play my tennis."

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