Kei Nishikori is one of the steadiest, most consistent players in the world, but despite his success on the court, he tends to fly under the radar.
A mainstay in the Top 10 since September of 2014, when he lost to Marin Cilic in the U.S. Open final, the 27-year-old is an 11-time titlist who has reached as high as No. 4 in the world. (He’s currently ranked fifth.)
So how is it that a player this accomplished has never won a Masters tournament, let alone a Grand Slam?
It’s hard to fathom, but until Nishikori wins a signature title, he won’t be able to shake the “good but not quite great” label that accompanies him to every event.
Now a seasoned veteran on tour, the Japanese sensation hopes to shed that reputation in 2017.
“I am trying to keep my ranking and hope that I can raise my ranking a little bit,” Nishikori told reporters, according to ESPN.com. “And win a big title, especially [a] Masters or [a] Grand Slam.”
Nishikori kicked off his campaign by reaching the final in Brisbane, defeating Stan Wawrinka along the way. He was ousted by Grigor Dimitrov, arguably the hottest player in the world right now, in the championship match.
A week later, at the Australian Open, Nishikori lost to eventual champion Roger Federer in five sets in the fourth round.
“I think it was a big chance for me,” Nishikori said of the season’s first Slam, “but Rafa [Nadal] and Roger played a great final. It was a tough loss against Roger, but I learned a lot of things from the tournament, so I will try to keep going.
“…I think I’m getting close to the top four guys. Novak [Djokovic] and Andy [Murray] are still dominating the tour, but I hope I can keep up with their level.”
Nishikori is in Buenos Aires this week for the 250-level Argentina Open. The top seed, he received a bye into the second round and will play 50th-ranked Diego Schwartzman in his opening match.