MELBOURNE (Reuters) - As a culinary destination, Florida makes a great tennis base, according to Kei Nishikori, who pines for the food of his home country Japan.
Like dozens of tour players, Nishikori has been based in the southern U.S. state for years, honing his game in the sun at the start of each season.
A massive celebrity in Japan and one of the highest-paid players in the game, Nishikori’s straight sets thrashing of David Ferrer on Monday put him into his second quarter-final at the Australian Open.
Having become the first man from an Asian country to reach the final of a grand slam at the U.S. Open, Nishikori’s progress at Melbourne Park will no doubt raise hopes he can go one better in the year’s first major.
People in Florida probably would not be jumping up and down about it, according to fifth seed Nishikori, who booked a quarter-final showdown with defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
“Yeah, (in) Florida nobody talks to me. In Japan, yes, it’s a little bit different,” the 25-year-old told reporters.
”You know, lots of people recognize me. Not easy to walk on the street. But I really enjoy living in Japan because that’s my home. I feel more comfortable living in Japan.
”They have much better food, I have to say. But Florida, they have a great facility in IMG Academy, good players I can train with.
“They have everything. So I really like living in Florida. But maybe after I retire, I might move to Japan.”
Nishikori edged Wawrinka in a five-set classic at Flushing Meadows in the quarter-finals last year on his trailblazing run to the final.
He said he felt his form against ninth seed Ferrer gave him confidence that he might go the extra mile at Melbourne Park to seal his maiden grand slam title.
“Against him I had nothing to lose,” he said.
“So played... almost 100 percent tennis. A lot of confidence coming up. So, obviously it’s going to be a tough opponent next match. But I’ve been playing well. So it’s going to be exciting match.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien