'It is just fun to play against Roger Federer', says former Top 5

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'It is just fun to play against Roger Federer', says former Top 5

Kei Nishikori has had to deal with numerous physical problems in recent years, which have prevented him from playing his chances to the full. After the Masters 1000 in Cincinnati in 2019, the Japanese decided to have an operation on his wrist to try to resolve an injury, before the pandemic also disrupted the tennis calendar.

In a recent interview on the official ATP website, the Japanese confirmed his admiration for 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer. The former world number 1 has just made his return to the circuit after more than a year of absence, but has failed to make it past the quarter-finals in Doha.

The 39-year-old from Basel, who underwent two knee operations in 2020, has targeted Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics in what could be the final season of his outstanding career. Roger and Kei have faced each other 11 times on the ATP tour, with the Swiss leading 8-3 on the head-to-head balance sheet (their latest match took place at Wimbledon two years ago).

Nishikori pays tribute to Roger Federer

"I would play Roger Federer, because he is my idol," Kei Nishikori responded when asked about his dream match at a Masters 1000 event. "If we can play a couple more times, it would be great because it is just fun to play against him."

Kei Nishikori on his part believes Roger Federer will be on the tour for a while longer. The Japanese also claimed that playing against Federer is always an enriching experience. "You get many experiences from [playing] Roger Federer," Nishikori said.

"I am sure he is going to play a couple more years. Before he retires, I want to play him a couple more times. A final would be great." After suffering an ignominious opening-round exit at this year’s Australian Open, the 31-year-old Japanese has taken some strides in rediscovering his best form.

Shrugging off his first-round loss to Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta at Melbourne Park and eyeing a return to the Top-10 in singles, Nishikori reached the quarter-finals at ATP Rotterdam and the Dubai Open. While the Japanese went down to Croatian Borna Coric in the quarter-finals at Rotterdam, he lost to rising South African and eventual finalist Lloyd Harris in the last-eight clash in Dubai.

However, his dream of meeting Federer at a Masters 1000 event would have to wait as the Swiss, along with Big Three rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, as well as a host of other top stars, have pulled out of this year’s Miami Open.