Nishikori Continues Comeback, Reaches Challenger 75 Final

The Japanese star is aiming for first title at any level since 2018
June 18, 2023
Kei Nishikori is playing his first tournament since October 2021.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Kei Nishikori is playing his first tournament since October 2021. By ATP Staff

Despite playing his first tournament in 20 months, Kei Nishikori has produced a high level this week to reach the final at the ATP Challenger 75 event in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico.

The former World No. 4 defeated Brazilian Gustavo Heide 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to advance to the Caribbean Open championship match. Nishikori broke Heide’s serve at 4-5 in the opening set to gain an advantage on the 21-year-old, who was playing in his first Challenger semi-final.

Nishikori, 33, continued to absorb the qualifier's heavy hitting, playing with consistency and depth to frustrate Heide and advance after one hour, 26 minutes. The Japanese star dropped just one point behind his first delivery in the second set.

The 12-time tour-level titlist will next meet American Michael Zheng in the final after the teenager moved past Kazakh Beibit Zhukayev 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in a rain-disrupted semi-final.

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This week marks Nishikori's return to competition after extended time off due to injuries. After undergoing arthroscopic left hip surgery last year, Nishikori is playing his first event since the BNP Paribas Open in October 2021.

Should Nishikori go one step further to triumph at the hard-court event, it would be his first title at any level since he won the ATP 250 event in Brisbane in 2018.

Fans can live stream the Palmas del Mar final for free at Challenger TV. The match will start Saturday at 4pm ET/Sunday 5am Tokyo.

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