Will defending his title be a breeze for Kei Nishikori in Hawaii?

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Will defending his title be a breeze for Kei Nishikori in Hawaii?

The new season hasn't started yet, but for Kei Nishikori, he has great expectations for the coming season. He's celebrating a new member of his coaching team, former player Max Mirnyi. The Belarusian holds 52 ATP doubles titles including six grand slams and a gold medal in mixed doubles at the 2010 London Olympics.

"Mirnyi will join the coaching team full-time...Excited what the future holds," Nishikori said quite wide-eyed and with a big grin. Kei holds 12 singles titles and feels that Max and he have known each other for years with good vibrations to come with their partnership.

Mirnyi is excited to be helping his buddy get to a successful spot in his career again. He is so much looking forward to seeing what results he can bring. Kei will be returning to the Hawaii Open from December 26-28 with hopes of possibly defending his title.

It is anticipated that his current coach Michael Chang along with Max will create a good mix for him to produce great results. But everyone wants to know how is Nishikori's health? The tennis community knows that when he is injury-free he can wow anyone off the court.

He defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and went 5-terrific sets with Benoit Paire to come out with the victories at this year's French Open. Kei would prove victorious over Taylor Fritz in straight sets at the Italian Open this year and again at the Barcelona Open earlier.

Is anything possible for the Japanese? It is if he stays healthy. Nishikori has had unfortunate luck suffering for a while with a right elbow injury and hasn't competed since this year's U.S. Open, losing in the third round to Alex DeMinaur after 4-sets.

He couldn't tolerate the discomfort any longer and had to have surgery on the troublesome elbow this past October. Kei is currently ranked no. 8 and confessed that the elbow had been painful since the French Open in May, despite his wins over Tsonga and Paire.

He had to give the ATP Asian Swing a miss and also the Rakuten Japan Open which he'd gotten two career titles there. This season he scored a title in Brisbane defeating Daniil Medvedev and had quarterfinal levels at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

Last month in November, Nishikori felt he progressed well and with nearly no discomfort, but was taking a month off without having to play any tennis, as he was advised by doctors. It was even back in 2017 the Japanese suffered from a ruptured tendon in his right wrist, which is all healed at the present.

The competition will be fierce as Nishikori returns onto the tennis scene. Waiting for him at the Hawaii Open is the same as last year, Canada's Milos Raonic. They may have a showdown as last time but Nishikori came out a winner of two straight tiebreak sets over the Canadian and the title.

The NextGen Taylor Fritz will also be waiting for both Raonic and Nishikori but will try to grab a victory if needed over the Japanese who he's lost to twice before in the season. Sam Querrey as well as Jordan Thompson the gritty Australian are there as is Christian Harrison as an alternate.

Kei knows his competition is extraordinary but especially watching out for Raonic. Being prepared is necessary but Kei must play cautiously as he's set to play the Hawaii Open and then in January the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia.

The pre-season couldn't be better as this is a great time for Kei Nishikori to try his skills out after the rehabbing and recuperation is over. Things won't be easy for the Japanese, but as long as he stays positive, doesn't overplay his body and combines with his team on advice in participation, he may be looking at another title from the Hawaii Open and good results throughout his 2020 season.