Settled in the Tyrol Alps, the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel is one of the most picturesque stops on the ATP calendar. It all started there back in 1959, and the event became a part of the Open era in 1970 when the Yugoslavian Zeljko Franulovic won the title.
Between 1999-2008, Kitzbuhel had the ATP 500 status, and there was no ATP event in the next two years, with the tournament reduced to the Challenger level. It returned to the circuit in 2011, with Adriano Panatta, Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas, Pete Sampras (his first clay-court title), Thomas Muster, Goran Ivanisevic, Albert Costa, Alex Corretja, Guillermo Coria, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Martin del Potro, and David Goffin among the notable winners of this tournament.
Next week, the 2020 edition will take place, marking the first ATP event of the season on clay and initially gathering an incredible field of players ready to play there in case of the early US Open exit. Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini, Roberto Bautista Agut, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime were all on the entry list.
Still, they have all withdrawn from Kitzbuhel, leaving the door open for other players to chase the crown. With so many withdrawals, Kei Nishikori will be among the seeded players, traveling to Kitzbuhel and entering his first tournament in a year, sidelined with injuries since the US Open 2019.
Overcoming the coronavirus in recent weeks, Kei is ready to fight again, eager to step on the court and show his quality. Struggling with arm and elbow injuries, Nishikori had to finish the previous season outside the top-10 for the second time in three years, playing his last match against Alex de Minaur in New York last September.
Kei underwent surgery on October 22, working on his comeback and having to stay at home since March, like all the other players, due to the coronavirus.
Kei Nishikori will play Kitzbuhel, his first tournament since last year's US Open.
Nishikori had remained in the top-10 until the end of October, kicking off the 2019 season with Brisbane's title before retiring in the quarter-final at the Australian Open against Novak Djokovic.
In Rotterdam, he was the semi-finalist in his last notable result before April and Barcelona, losing to Daniil Medvedev in a tight semi-final encounter. The Japanese advanced into the quarter-final in Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, gaining a few ranking positions but losing them quickly after competing at only five matches following the All England Club, failing to score a win in Montreal and Cincinnati and heading to New York with low confidence.
There, Kei ousted Marco Trungelliti and Bradley Klahn before losing to Alex de Minaur in four sets in what turned out to be his last encounter so far. "It's a great city, great mountains and views. It's my first time in Kitzbuhel, and I'm enjoying it.
I had one year off because of my elbow issue, but I'm feeling good. I feel like I'm at 100% now and hope to start with a good week. I'm sure that I'm going to enjoy the matches; it's been a long time. I'm sure I'll get nervous and all of the other emotions, but the first thing I'll feel is enjoying the moment," Kei Nishikori said.