Former world No 4 Kei Nishikori says he is not setting major goals or expectations early in his comeback as for now the Japanese just wants to get some wins and lift his confidence levels. On Tuesday, 33-year-old Nishikori won his first ATP main-level match for the first time in nearly two years.
In the Atlanta first round, Nishikori defeated Jordan Thompson 7-6 (5) 7-6 (5) - this was the Japanese's first win since 2021 October. After missing the entire 2022 season and the first five months of the 2023 season, "No, there are no goals.
Just trying to play one match at a time and try to win this kind of tough match. I just need more confidence to play with top players," Nishikori said after the match.
Nishikori beats Thompson for a positive return to the ATP level
In June, Nishikori played his comeback tournament at the Palmas del Mar Challenger - where he made it all the way.
After winning Palmas del Mar, Nishikori appeared in two more Challenger tournaments - the Japanese suffered a round-of-16 defeat at the Bloomfield Hills Challenger and also had a quarterfinal showing at the Chicago Challenger.
After playing several matches on the Challenger level, Nishikori officially made his return to the main level this week. In his Atlanta opener, it wasn't easy but Nishikori delivered when it mattered the most. Against Thompson, Nishikori saved all four break points he faced and also won three consecutive points from 4-5 down in the second-set tie-break to compete a two-set win.
“Not [an] easy first round against Jordan. He's very steady from the baseline. He doesn't miss much and I have to be aggressive all the time. But I'm quite happy the way I played today. There were some moments that I should have stepped up a little more. But with these tough conditions I'm happy to win in two sets," Nishikori said after his win.