Nishikori goes from Project 45 to Elite 8

Tue Nov 4, 2014 9:26pm EST
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By Pritha Sarkar

PARIS (Reuters) - After becoming the first Asian man to reach a grand slam singles final and coming agonisingly close winning the title, Kei Nishikori will achieve another milestone when he becomes the first player from the continent to compete at the ATP World Tour Finals.

While many other first-time grand slam finalists might think falling at the final hurdle at the U.S. Open was something to shout about, Nishikori is determined not to get carried away by the feat because as far as he is concerned -- there is unfinished business to complete.

As he prepares to make his debut in the season-ending spectacular featuring eight of the world's best players, the unassuming Nishikori sat down with Reuters to have a chat about how a move to the U.S. helped him to become an Asian trailblazer, about the weaknesses he is still working on with his coach Michael Chang and about the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

REUTERS: You were given the "Project 45" nickname when you were starting out in tennis with the aim of surpassing Japan's previous best men's ranking of 46. You have now become the first Asian man to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals so how does it feel for 'Project 45' to be among the 'Elite 8' this year?

NISHIKORI: "It’s a bit different. That was one of the goals I had when I was 18 (to be ranked higher than 46th in the world). Now it’s a completely different situation.

"I tried to aim for London last year but (I had to settle with) finishing in the Top 20. It’s a great feeling. I have motivation for the good goals so it’s a great feeling."

REUTERS: You will be making your debut in the Finals, what are your expectations?   Continued...

Kei Nishikori of Japan returns a shot during his men's singles quarter-final tennis match against David Ferrer of Spain at the Paris Masters tennis tournament at the Bercy sports hall in Paris, October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier