Wimbledon 2014: Kei Nishikori reaping benefits of his own 'celebrity' coach

The Japanese player has seen much improvement since appointing Michael Chang

Kei Nishikori did not make as many waves as some of his rivals when he appointed his own “celebrity” coach at the end of last year, but the 24-year-old Japanese is delighted with the progress he has made under Michael Chang. Since recruiting the former French Open champion Nishikori has beaten Roger Federer, won titles in Memphis and Barcelona and made the world’s top 10.

His latest breakthrough came here when he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in six attempts. Resuming at 3-3 in the final set against Italy’s Simone Bolelli after play had been called off late on Saturday evening because of bad light, Nishikori needed only four more games to complete a 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory. He now meets Canada’s Milos Raonic.

“There was a lot of stress these last two days, especially yesterday,” Nishikori said afterwards. “I never experienced anything like this – starting the fifth set, then taking one day off, then playing again today. It wasn’t easy. It was very tough to concentrate all the way until today. But I think I started well. I played much better tennis today than on Saturday.”

He added: “It was a very tight match. He was playing really aggressively and flat on both sides, especially the forehand. He was hitting a lot of winners and sometimes I didn't know what to do. I was running from side to side.”

 

While Federer, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have attracted more publicity over recent months with their appointments of Stefan Edberg, Amelie Mauresmo and Boris Becker respectively, Nishikori and Chang have been quietly getting down to business.

“It’s been great,” Nishikori said. “I love what he does and how he coaches me. My tennis is also changing. My ranking is much higher than last year. It’s not because we are both Asian. The way we play is similar. Like me, he's not the biggest guy on tour. He knows how I should play.

“He teaches me to be mentally strong. He’s always very positive. I love how he thinks. Sometimes we think differently. When we talk to each other, I try to understand how he thinks. I learn a lot of things from him.”

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