Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated the Men’s Tennis ATP Rankings for a number of years. However, the talented Kei Nishikori has shown that he has the potential to end the dominant reign of the big four in men’s tennis. Could Nishikori end Japan’s wait for a Grand Slam winner? Read on to find out.
Wimbledon 2017 odds may show Kei Nishikori as an outsider (99.870*); particularly compared to the likes of the big four, but Japan’s most decorated tennis player in history has shown glimpses of what could well be a successful trip to London.
An in-depth look at Kei Nishikori’s past Grand Slam odds
History shows Wimbledon as a curse for Nishikori. Injury woes in both 2015 (calf) and 2016 (rib) forced him to retire in both competitions. Thus his Wimbledon odds for this year are extremely high, particularly in comparison to last years. Such high value for a 9th seeded player is unprecedented and may offer good value in this year’s Wimbledon betting; particularly when looking at what Nishikori can do when he hits form.
Kei Nishikori is the number 9 seed heading into Wimbledon and bettors will be encouraged by the fact that he has won at least one title on the ATP World Tour every year since 2012, including four in 2015 (Tokyo Open, Malaysia Open, Barcelona Open and the Memphis Open). In fact, Nishikori has not only won various Opens but retained them, including winning the Memphis Open four years in a row.
However, it is that elusive first Grand Slam title that will surely spur Nishikori; particularly after making the US Open final in 2014, only to be beaten by Marin Cilic.
Kei Nishikori – the player
Indeed, he may no longer live in Japan, yet the Japanese people still idolise him. Nishikori openly admits travelling to Tokyo disguised to avoid being swarmed in the streets, and even times of his practice sessions are suppressed to protect him from his own popularity at the Japan Open; as the size and passion of his following can be precarious.
Yet it is this erratic following that acts as a synopsis of the man’s game itself. Kei Nishikori’s style of play is erratic in its own right; some days looking like a world beater, whilst others crumbling under the pressure.
Take his most recent Grand Slam loss at Roland Garros to Andy Murray for example. Nishikori outclassed the World number one in the first set, winning 6-2 and was about to break Murray in the third game of the second set before capitulating to the fired up Brit. Kei went on to lose the game 6-2, 1-6, 6-7, 1-6.
Nishikori only amassed 55.9 average feet per point in the 2014 US Open; much lower than Murray and Wawrinka’s 70.1 and 63.1 respectively.
This encounter with Murray acted as a summary of Nishikori’s career to date. At times, he can stand toe-to-toe with the best, shown by his victories against both Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic on the way to the US Open final in 2014. At his worst, he can struggle against names that he should brush past with ease, such as his recent loss (at closing odds of 1.14) to then 76th seed Thomaz Belluci in the Rio Open. Belluci hadn’t beaten a top 10 player since 2012. Consistency will be the key to success for Nishikori to win at Wimbledon.
Japan’s biggest sports star?
Although soccer and baseball are incredibly popular in Japan, it could be said that Nishikori’s rise has earned him the title of the biggest star in Japanese sport. Listed below is a summary of Nishikori’s career wins and the odds offered by Pinnacle:
Kei Nishikori’s odds prior to tournament success
Kei Nishikori’s strengths
His game hinges on in his movement. Nishikori’s road to the US Open final back in 2014 detailed just how important his footwork was in order to out-manoeuvre the best in the world. Nishikori only amassed 55.9 average feet per point; much lower than Murray and Wawrinka’s 70.1 and 63.1 respectively. This points towards his ability to control the court by moving quickly and efficiently.
Nishikori uses the baseline to his advantage, hugging the back of the court and making use of his deadly backhand down the line. The fewer steps, the more energy conserved and the better chance of using the excess energy in the shots themselves.
Nishikori has won at least one title on the ATP World Tour every year since 2012, including four in 2014.
His movement allows Kei to set up his masterful return. In the last 12 months, Nishikori has won 54.8% of 2nd serve return points (the 7th best record) and 31.1% of return games (the 5th best record). His return game makes it very difficult to hold against him, and when he is given even the smallest of chances from a serve expect the ball to be returned back deep to the court; forcing the server short.
Kei Nishikori’s weaknesses
Size and strength will often be a hindrance. The Japanese number one stands at just 1.78 metres tall; dwarfed by the likes of heavy hitters Marin Cilic (1.98 metres) and Milos Raonic (1.96 metres). In a game increasingly decided by the biggest and strongest, his serve acts as a roadblock to success. His percentage of first serve points won stands at a measly 71.5, which is engulfed by Raonic and Cilic’s 80.5 and 79.6 respectively.
Nishikori averages 3.3 aces per match, just the 66th best record in men’s singles. Whilst his movement can prevail to break points, his poor serve makes avoiding his serves being broken much more difficult. If however, Nishikori can get his serve to stick at this year’s Wimbledon, then the rest of his game could just be enough to see him be a good bet in the Wimbledon 2017 odds.
His overall game is of a high enough quality to compete for the title in Pinnacle’s outright Wimbledon 2017 odds – if his game comes together. As consistency is an issue for Nishikori his chances are difficult to evaluate. His record this year is good, winning 24 games and losing nine. His underdog title shouldn’t scare bettors too much either, Kei Nishikori has delivered at big odds in the past and he has every chance of doing it again.