Kei Nishikori admits surprise for winning a claycourt title

Japanese tennis star kei Nishikori admitted that it was a surprise for him to win his first claycourt title in his career, at an ATP 500 event no less and at Barcelona Open, a tournament dominated by top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the past eight years. Nadal lost in the quarterfinals to compatriot Nicolas Almagro.

“It was a big surprise for me to win a clay-court tournament, my first clay-court title. All the Spaniards and Europeans were playing there and it’s not easy to win a [ATP World Tour] 500. I didn’t play Top 10 players, but I still think it was a good week for me. I’m feeling confident and playing well, so hopefully I can do well here,” Nishikori said in an interview with ATPWorldTour.com.

Nishikori is currently coached by former top two player and 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.

“For sure, [Chang] is giving me good improvements,” said Nishikori. “My tennis is getting better and stronger, especially with him. He’s not here this week, but it’s going well with him. He’s given me good tips that I need to work on. We have similar playing styles, so he knows what I need to work on.

“My next goal is to get into the Top 10,” he added. “It’s not going to be easy and my goal isn’t just to stay there for one week. Hopefully I can keep that ranking all the time. I’m getting close. Hopefully I can do it soon.

“I feel very strong right now, especially after winning Barcelona. I had the injury in Miami that was very unfortunate. Hopefully I can stay healthy for a while now and do well in every tournament. I hope I can qualify for the [Barclays ATP World Tour Finals]. That’s going to be a big goal.”

Nishikori is seeded tenth at the Madrid Masters and is slated to compete against Ivan Dodig of Croatia.

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