Kei Nishikori - Next Asian Tennis Player Poised for a Breakout?

The 2013 Australian Open tennis tournament has gotten underway. I guess the last great Asian male tennis player to hit the scene was Thailand's Paradorn Srichaiphan, whose world tennis ranking peaked at 9th. He's done well and played competitively against better known and higher ranked players like Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, and others.

Although, in some circles, Paradorn is best known for having married Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005 (at right). While I'd still like to see an Asian American follow in Michael Chang's footsteps, we now have Kei Nishikori from Japan (pictured below) to represent.

There have been great inroads by the Chinese women into the tennis world. Players like Li Na, who won the French Open; and Zheng Jie just knocked Aussie home girl Samantha Stosur out in yesterday's match. Where are the Asian men? What are they doing? I know it's tough to break into the pro ranks but there needs to be more visibility and guys willing to try. There were one or two guys from my area who were good enough to turn pro but unfortunately, they didn't have the same physicality (ie, size) or the talent to have a break through.

Nishikori is aware of the lack of Asian males in the tennis ranks. From India's Daily News and Analysis article:

"Asia's failure to produce a male grand slam singles champion is a wrong that needs to be righted, according to Kei Nishikori, and the Japanese trailblazer has made it his mission to be first to clinch a major trophy for the continent. The slender 23-year-old has a history of breaking new ground, his electrifying quarter-final run at last year's Australian Open making him the first Japanese man in the last eight at Melbourne Park in 80 years. The top 10 beckons this year for the 18th-ranked Nishikori but grand slam success is a long-term plan that hinges on staying injury-free and bulking up physically to match the muscle-men who dominate the pinnacle of tennis. 

"For sure, it's important for an Asian man to win a grand slam. I hope I'm the one to make it," Nishikori told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. "My height is no longer growing, but my muscle is still growing. "I still want to be a little bit bigger. Hopefully in a few years. They say in Asia, the body gets perfect about 25 or 26. "(Tennis) is more of a power game right now so you need to have good muscle and be strong." At 5-ft-10in (1.78 metres) with a wiry frame, Nishikori lacks the height and physique of most of his opponents, and has relied on guile, speed and shot-making to propel himself into the top 20."

Read the rest of the article here

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