The Australian Open is marketed as the Grand Slam of Asia and the Pan Pacific but one of the most commercially viable star from the region likes in danger of missing the year’s first major as Kei Nishikori struggles to overcome an injured knee in time for next Monday’s start.
Japan’s Nishikori was forced to withdraw from last week’s Brisbane International semi-final after initially leading eventual champion Andy Murray and now he has also pulled of this week’s traditional Melbourne curtain riser, the AAMI Classic at Kooyong.
Currently no.18 in the world, Nishikori is this year potentially set to become Asia’s highest ever ranked player by overtaking Paradorn Srichiphan, the Thai who peaked as the world no.9 ten years ago. And the commercial interest in Nishikori at the Australian Open is set to be huge with corporate Japan mesmerised by his every move.
Last year Nishikori became the first Asian male to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after beating former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and he underlined his ability to win the tournaments that aid his marketability by claiming last October’s Rakuten Japan Open. Therefore hopes are understandably high for Nick Bollettieri-trained right-hander but after just one practice hit at Melbourne Park he realized the knee is still not up to the rigors of best-of-five-sets competition.
The 21 year-old will now undergo five days of intensive treatment on the knee in the hope he will be fit to play. Without giving too much away, Nishikori said: “Hopefully, I can play.
Nishikori withdrawal from the Kooyong event was the second blow for AAMI Classic promoter Colin Stubs. Earlier world no.12 Juan Monaco of Argentina was forced to offer his apologies because of a hand injury.
“The doctors advised him not to play for the next few days,” Stubs said.
©Daily Tennis News Wire