Japan’s Kei Nishikori has set his sights on finally making a strong run at this year’s Wimbledon despite admitting he is less than 100 percent fit.
Nishikori was forced to withdraw from the Wimbledon warm-up event in Halle before his second round match last week due to an injury to his oblique muscles.
The world number six eased fears that he might miss Wimbledon when he came through a two-set win against Richard Gasquet in an exhibition match on Thursday.
Nishikori concedes he is still short of full fitness, but the 2014 US Open runner-up believes he is close enough to be able to do himself justice when he faces big-serving Australian Sam Groth in the Wimbledon first round next week.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve had almost one week after I got injured, so I should be fine,” Nishikori told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.
“I’ve been practising really well these couple days. Two days ago I just played Gasquet two sets, so I should be okay for Monday.
“I’m close to 100 percent. I mean, not 100 percent yet. But I start Monday, so I have one more day.”
Nishikori is determined to make it to at least the quarter-finals at the All England Club this year after enduring some miserable experiences at the grass-court Grand Slam.
The 26-year-old was forced to pull out of Wimbledon in the second round last year due to a leg injury and it is the only Grand Slam where he has failed to reach the quarter-finals.
Nishikori remains uncomfortable playing on grass, but his respect for the history and tradition of the tournament is fuelling his bid to improve on a wretched record of one last 16 appearance in seven attempts.
That is an especially frustrating statistic for Nishikori given his excellence on all other surfaces.
From Indian Wells in March through to the Rome Masters in May, Nishikori embarked on a superb run that included reaching the Miami and Barcelona finals.
During that stretch, Novak Djokovic, three times, and Rafael Nadal, twice, were the only players to beat him, while he only bowed out against the in-form Gasquet in the last 16 at the recent French Open.
“I like grass. It’s not my best yet. It’s always my goal to get to quarter-finals or semis here because I haven’t done really well in the grass-court season,” he said.
“Usually I got injured. Last year, I got hurt in Halle and I couldn’t play, then I pulled out of the second round here, so I’ve been a little bit a little bit unfortunate too.
“Obviously Wimbledon has a lot of history. I think the first slam I knew was Wimbledon.
“When I come here, I feel something special. The only thing is I haven’t done really well here yet. If I can win more matches here, I think I will love it more.”
Groth’s ranking has dropped to 123rd after he came close to breaking into the top 50 last year and with the incentive of a potential quarter-final against Roger Federer and a semi-final against Djokovic lying in wait, Nishikori hopes to take advantage of the Australian’s struggles.
“I can win couple matches with good tennis, I think I will get more confidence on grass, and I will get good rhythm on a grass court,” he added.
“I think the first couple matches are very important for me here this week.”