Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

27 August 2015

How a new coach made Kei Nishikori a grand slam contender

How does one begin to measure toughness? It’s probably most akin to gauging or producing team chemistry, and about as tangible. Lucky for Kei Nishikori and his coach, American legend Michael Chang, both have seemed to arrive for them almost effortlessly, with favorable results nearly as rapidly.

Since naming Chang, the former world No. 2 and the 1989 French Open champion, to a support team that includes longtime coach Dante Bottini, Nishikori’s game and results have continued to grow. After turning pro in 2007, the top-ranked Japanese player slowly rose in the rankings up to a career-high No 11 for a handful of weeks in 2013, ending that season at No 17. But talk about impact. Since Chang began working with him, Nishikori, now 25, has won seven of his 10 ATP titles (including three this season), broken into the top five (he’s currently No. 4 in the world), and made it to his first grand slam final at last year’s U.S. Open.

“I think it’s a great matchup with me and Michael, because we play kind of similar tennis, and we have [the] same height,” Nishikori said earlier this month at the Citi Open, which he won. “Mentally, he was really tough. [There’s] so, so many things to learn from him. He has a lot of experience, and for sure, he’s helping my game right now, and my ranking is one of the highest right now.”

Chang didn’t attend the Washington tournament with Nishikori because of the birth of his third child. With Bottini leading the day-to-day training sessions, Nishikori and Chang were still in touch by phone almost every day, though, talking tactics as well as some continued pieces of emphasis for his game.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

Follow me on Twitter: @kfixler

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