Nishikori Youngest Player in Top 100
Japanese teenager Kei Nishikori, a winner of his first ATP title earlier in the season, is the youngest player in the Top 100 South African Airways ATP Rankings.
Nishikori, at 18 years, 4 months, broke into the Top 100 this week at No. 99 after capturing the Bermuda Challenger title on Sunday. In February, he earned his first ATP title in Delray Beach, defeating James Blake in the final.
Off the court, the young phenom on Wednesday signed a three-year endorsement deal to be a global ambassador for Sony Corporation. The announcement was made with more than 100 media outlets in attendance at Sony headquarters in Tokyo.
In both of his title runs, Nishikori saved match points. He saved four match points in his semifinal victory over Sam Querrey in Delray Beach. In the final win over Viktor Troicki, he saved two match points before prevailing in a third set tie-break. "I never give up and I am mentally getting stronger and stronger," he said.n
Nishikori, who is the first Japanese player to rank in the Top 100 since Shuzo Matsuoka on Aug. 19, 1996, said, "It feels great. He was my hero and it was one of my goals to accomplish this like him. I keep working hard to continue to move up in the rankings."
The Asian No. 2 player on the ATP circuit, behind Korean Hyung-Taik Lee (No. 55) has made the biggest jump into the Top 100 from the 2007 year-end rankings when he was No. 281.
"In January I had the goal to be Top 100," he said. "Obviously with Delray and Bermuda, things are going very fast. I don't look so much at age. I am working hard to be the best but it is very nice to see the success this early."
"My next goal is to reach the Top 50. Obviously in the long run it is my dream to become the best player in the world."
Although Nishikori will have to qualify to get into the main draw at Roland Garros, by reaching the Top 100 he will guarantee himself a direct entry into Wimbledon when the field is announced in two weeks.
"It will be my first main draw Grand Slam direct entry and it means a lot to me," said Nishikori. "It seems all to be going very fast. It is nice to see all the hard work I am doing every day with my team to pay off."
Major League Baseball players in the U.S. Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka are stars from Japan and Nishikori is hoping tennis will pick up in his native country.
"Baseball players are stars here and since Shuzo there hasn't been a player ranked very high in the rankings so people are very excited," said Nishikori. "I hope to grow the game of tennis in my country."
I hope very soon in future, he'll be another "youngest" Top 50, then, Top 20 and Top 10!