Kei Nishikori makes perfect return! How far he can go?

Kei Nishikori won the Challenger title in Puerto Rico

by Jovica Ilic
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Kei Nishikori makes perfect return! How far he can go?

Former Major finalist Kei Nishikori is back in action for the first time since October 2021! The 33-year-old returned to the practice court in recent months, announcing his comeback and making it at the Caribbean Open Challenger in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico.

Kei skipped the recent Challengers in Little Rock and Tyler, not rushing anything and making a winning return last week. Thus, the Japanese extended his winning streak at Challengers and continued where he left in Dallas in February 2018.

Nishikori's first Challenger title came in April 2008, and he is still competitive 15 years later despite all the injuries and setbacks. The Japanese met world no. 1118 Michael Zheng in the title clash and beat a teenager 6-2, 7-5 in an hour and 41 minutes.

The American qualified for the main draw and entered his second Challenger tournament in a career. He played well to reach the final, challenging a former Major finalist in the second set before settling with the runner-up spot.

Kei Nishikori claimed his first Challenger title since 2018.

Kei played flawless tennis in the opener and forged a 5-2 advantage in the second. The young gun returned and saved a match point in the tenth game to prolong the action before losing two games at 5-5 to hand the trophy to his opponent.

Kei defended five out of eight break points and turned 56% of the return points into ten six breaks from 16 chances. Nishikori broke in the encounter's first game with a deep return and held at 15 for 2-0. Zheng came from 40-0 down in the third game and held to get his name on the scoreboard.

The Japanese grabbed the fourth game with a service winner and broke at love a few minutes later with a forehand down the line winner for 4-1. Kei moved 5-1 up with another fine hold and wrapped up the opener with an ace in game eight.

Michael faced four break points at the start of the second set and got broken after Kei's volley winner at the net. The young gun broke back in the fourth game after Nishikori's loose backhand before squandering his chances in the next one.

Kei seized his fourth break chance to secure another lead and move closer to the title. The more experienced player grabbed another break in game seven to open a 5-2 gap and put one hand on the trophy. Zheng returned in game eight and pulled one break back at love with a backhand winner.

Kei squandered a match point at 5-4 and lost serve for the second straight time to bring the opponent back to 5-5. The more experienced player made a fresh start in game 11 and broke a teenager at love with a volley winner.

Kei served for the title at 6-5 and placed a volley winner to seal the deal and make a winning return after missing 20 months of action.

Kei Nishikori
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