Zee Media Bureau/Jayanta Oinam
New Delhi: When Kei Nishikori roped in Michael Chang as his mentor last December, many have doubted the purpose of having a star coach. Employing former players have become a trend, and many of the top players currently travel with former champions.
However, the Nishikori-Chang association has been highlight of the tour this season. The 2014 season has already become a breakthrough season for the Japanese. In May, the 24-year-old became the first Japanese player to be ranked inside the the top 10 in ATP Singles Ranking.
Besides the quantum jump in the ranking position, he also improved the tournament performances, winning Memphis and Barcelona events. He also reached the semi-finals finals in Miami and the final in Madrid. In the season opening Grand Slam in Australian Open, he reached the fourth round. A year before, he reached the quarters in Melbourne. And it has been his best showing in the majors.
However, Chang felt that “winning a grand slam is certainly a possibility. Kei is beating guys who have won slams or got to the finals and that will be a confidence booster for him to say.” And the youngest ever Grand Slam champion added that it can happened pretty soon, at the French Open which starts this Sunday.
“Kei has had a great clay court season so far, winning in Barcelona and getting to the finals in Madrid. Hopefully he can draw more strength from the way he has been playing... He had a good French Open last year, reaching the last 16, and it would be nice to improve on that,” added the 42-year-old, who won the 1989 French Open as a 17-year-old wonder boy.
Despite the injury set-backs which forced him to forfeit both the Miami and Madrid events, Nishikori will enter Roland Garros as one of the contenders, if not a favourite, who can beat any of the top ranked players.
With Agency inputs