Kei Nishikori is back in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open.
The Japanese tennis player won a third-round match against Slovakian Lukáš Lacko, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. It came after he was victories in a second-round match of the 2017 tournament against Jeremy Chardy of France to move on. He won the match 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. The three-set sweep came after Nishikori was nearly upset in the first round by Andrey Kuznetzov of Russia two days prior on January 15. He was up in the fourth set of the match, 5-2, but Kuznetzov came back and won via tiebreak. But Nishikori handled the Russian in the decisive fifth set, 6-1. He won the match 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2.
Nishikori advanced to the fourth round with the victory and advanced to play Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.
Here’s what you need to know about Nishikori:
1. Nishikori Is The Only Male Japanese Singles Player To Rank in The APT’s Top 10
The 27-year old is ranked No. 5 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Ranked ahead of him are Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland (4), Milos Raonic of Canada (3), Novak Djokovic of Spain (2) and Andy Murray of Great Britain (1).
Nishikori finished 2016 ranked No. 5 in the world, as well after improving from his No. 8-ranking in 2015. In 2014, Nishikori received the highest ranking of his career, at No. 4 (March 2015).
His complete play and rising rank made him the first male player from Japan to be ranked in the ATP’s top 10.
2. Nishikori Started Playing Tennis at 5-Years Old
Like most professional tennis players, Nishikori started playing the sport very young. He first picked up a tennis racket and ball when he was just 5. He got a grasp on his ability as a player and had a very successful career in his youth.
One of the first big tournaments he won in his career was the All Japan Tennis Championships for Kids in 2001.
In 2004, he moved from western Shimane Prefecture in Japan to Florida so he could join IMG Academy, an athletic and sports performance training academy. He was 14 when he made the move across the globe.
It didn’t take long for Nishikori to make his mark in America following his training at the academy. He won the 2004 title at the Riad 21 Tournament in Morocco and later won the boys’ doubles title at the 2006 Junior French Open with Emiliano Massa.
In his junior career, Nishikori compiled a 73-37 record in singles and was ranked No. 7 in the world in the summer of 2006 by the International Tennis Foundation. Then, in 2007, Nishikori won the Luxilon Cup and turned professional.
3. Nishikori Won a Bronze Medal at The 2016 Rio Olympics
Nishikori played in his first Olympic Games ever in 2016 and returned home from Brazil with some hardware. He defeated Rafael Nadal of Spain to win a bronze and became the first player from Japan since 1920 to win a tennis medal.
He beat Nadal 6-2, 6-7(1), 6-3 in the third-place match to win a medal.
Nishikori entered the Olympic tournament seeded No. 4 and cruised through competition to the quarterfinal. He defeated France’s Gael Monflis in the round, 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(8), and moved onto a semifinal match. /however, he dropped the match against eventual gold medalist Andy Murray.
4. Nishikori Took 2nd Place at The 2014 U.S. Open
At 23-years old, Nishikori played the role of the underdog during the 2014 U.S. Open.
He was seeded No. 10 in the tournament and defeated No. 5-seed Milos Raonic in a long-lasting match. He then kept his momentum moving along by taking down No. 3-seeded Stan Wawrinka in the very next round.
Next up, Nishikori delivered in another pressure-packed situation by upsetting No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.cro
5. Nishikori’s Dad Is An Engineer & Mom Is a Piano Teacher
Nishikori’s parents were influential in sending him to Florida to hone in on his skills. When he began playing tennis when he was a child, it was his dad who came home from a business trip to the United States with a racket.
His dad, Kiyoshi, is an engineer in Japan and his mom, Eri, is a piano teacher. While the two were caring parents, they weren’t really fans of sports.
Nishikori also has an older sister, Reina, who graduated from college and reportedly works in Tokyo.
Kei has a longtime girlfriend named Honami Tsuboi.
She is a former rhythmic gymnast and, like Nishikori, is 27-years old. She took part in the 2007 and 2009 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships and performed during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.