The insider: Kei Nishikori
You reached the semi-final stage of last year's Malaysian Open. Do you expect to go one better this time around?
Last year I played a tough match. I come to every tournament to win of course, but I look at it match by match, so I will keep doing that again this year.
You've played against the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the past. Who do you think is the best player out of the three?
All three play with very different styles, but I will have to say that Roger is the best player in the history of the game right now so it's tough to argue against that.
Are you confident in toppling the world's top three players in the near future?
I turned pro in 2007 and am learning every year. I have to say that with the more experience I get, I get more comfortable playing the top guys. I just have to keep working hard.
Aside from yourself and Lu Yen-Hsun, not a lot of Asian players are grabbing headlines in tennis. Is there a reason why we are still lagging behind our European counterparts?
I think it is tough to point out one reason. Maybe we are a little bit smaller in [body] length on average, but also the infrastructure in places like the USA and Europe is great for tennis. I grew up and still train at Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida because everything is right there.
If that's the case, how can our players improve in order to be world beaters?
You have to be willing to sacrifice to do what is best for your tennis. I left for Florida by myself at the age of 14. It was not easy and in the beginning I had to learn English and make new friends. I did not get to see my family a lot, but looking back, the hard work, the right team around me and the move to Florida all paid off for me.
At Wimbledon, Gilles Simon claimed that women do not deserve equal Grand Slam prize money with men. What do you think about that?
This is a very tough topic. I’d rather focus on my game and help build tennis in Asia.
Okay. What is the highlight of your career so far?
I think reaching the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open.
How about the biggest disappointment?
It is tough to point one out. Having a tennis career comes with wins and losses. The good thing is you can always play the next week, so one has to be positive.
Is there a facet of your game you’d like to improve in the future?
[Laughs] There are still a lot of things I want to improve. I am very young still, and I feel many parts of my game can be improved.
Describe your emotions on the big points and how you pull through with so much at stake?
I have been taught from a very young age to never give up. Training at Bollettieri’s with so many players, young and old, all the time makes you really learn how to fight. I just look at every match one point at a time and go from there.
What are your targets for the rest of the season?
I want to keep improving my ranking. I had a very strong finish last year and hope to emulate that again this year. Wong Boon Ken