Kei Nishikori: 2014 Malaysian Open finals interview transcript

If a tennis player on the ATP World Tour happens to be bilingual in English and his native language, post-match press conference questions tend to be posed in English first before proceeding to that language.  In the case of Kei Nishikori’s press conference following his 2014 Malaysian Open title – Nishikori defeated Julien Benneteau 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final – that questioning switched back and forth a couple of times.  Here is the transcript of that press conference in full; we have translated the Japanese portions into English.  Questions were asked by various reporters:

[in English]

Question: Congratulations on your win, Kei.  The first set was very close; at one point Benneteau was going to serve for the set.  What made the difference for you to come back?

Kei Nishikori: Well, it was a really tough start because he was playing so aggressive and especially this is indoors, if you hit it really slow, it’s tough to play.  I was waiting for my chance – my opportunity – for the last few games in the first set.  I had so many break points and couldn’t take it and, last game, he got a little bit tight and I took some chances.  After that, I was playing much better and I could see that he was getting more tired in the second set, so I tried to raise my level.  Yeah, a really tough match, especially because I wasn’t playing my best tennis.  But it’s good to win something like this.

Questions: When you had nine break points in the first set, was that a bit of a worry for you…?

Yeah, I mean it’s definitely tough when you have so many chances, especially because I was down 4-3 and 5-4, and couldn’t take my chance.  But he was hitting good serves and I couldn’t do anything sometimes.  I tried to stay there all the time; maybe I should have done something [like a] little change, but overall I got the first set, so I’m happy to win.  Was a tough game.

Question: This year we’ve had one of the best crowds we’ve ever had for a final.  How was the experience in front of that crowd?

Yeah, I mean, it’s not just today.  I think the whole week was almost packed.  I was really, really proud to play with this crowd, especially [since], you know, it’s not my country.  There are so many people who showed up.  It was also very fun to play with this crowd.  I always do well here, so I really like this tournament.

[translated from Japanese to English]

Question: Perhaps this championship wasn’t as important as coming in second place in the U.S. Open, but wasn’t this championship quite important for you in many ways?

Yes, I think it was important. After feeling the sting of defeat in the U.S. Open, it was good that I could come out on top. He was so good at the beginning that I thought I couldn’t win this match. But I was thinking, and hoping, that the game would turn around.  Gradually, I took a few opportunities and things that I needed to do became clearer as the game went on. I did well especially in the second set. So it was a significant win.

Question: As you mentioned earlier, you felt that you would lose the match initially. What were you thinking in the beginning?

I was thinking that the longer the deuce points continued, the more the opportunities I would get in the next game, even if I lost the deuce points. And I was hoping that would gradually put pressure on him. But if I lose deuce points as often as I did today, I get frustrated and lose confidence in my shots.

I was helped by my opponent in the 5-4 game, but that 5-4 game was easy because of the long two games before that. I had been able to play each game hard, and especially in the second game, the tide turned in my favor.

Question: Were you frustrated because you couldn’t win many free points?

It’s especially difficult to hit winners on this court, so during the last several days, I’ve been speaking with my coach and to “fight until the end” was one of the tactics today. On this slow court, the ball also didn’t fly well, and we are both good at groundstrokes. I knew it would be difficult to have aces or winners, so I was prepared for long rallies.

Question: As the top seed, you were almost expected to win. But after the U.S. Open, I’m sure it was difficult to switch your mentality. When you look back at winning this tournament, what are you most proud of?

Of course, today’s match was tough, and his tennis was really good especially in the beginning. So coming from behind and winning was good. Since last night, I was starting to feel the pressure and I couldn’t sleep well especially when 250 ranking points are at stake [several reporters laughed]. Towards the end of the year, I start thinking about my ranking. So under this pressure, although it wasn’t my best game, winning the final game was very valuable for me.

Question: In Tokyo, you are coming back to your home ground and the court will be different. How will you be ready?

I’m a bit anxious about getting nervous. But I’m feeling confident now, so getting used to the court, not getting caught in the atmosphere of the crowds and playing my tennis is what I need to do.

Question: You mentioned that you started thinking about the ranking and 250 points, but in terms of achieving your target for the year, will the [Shanghai Masters] be the biggest event?

Yes. This year, I’m getting quite close, and last year I was sneaking up on that target that too. But towards the end [of 2013], I was hoping to make the top 20. This year, I’m getting close, so 250 points is quite big.

Question: Do you have a specific rank that you want to end up at?

I don’t have that specificity, but for now, I want to get to London [for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which features the Top 8 players in 2014]. Going to London has become a big headline even though most people don’t know about it [reporters laugh].

[in English]

Question: After the Malaysian Open, what sort of target have you set for yourself for Tokyo and for Shanghai?

Yeah, for sure I want to do well in Japan because it’s my home country.  I’m sure that a lot of people will come out and cheer for me, so I will try to do well there.  Also, Shanghai is a Masters [event].  So those two, big goals for me.  I’m sure that this win is going to help for my confidence and also I showed that physically I am strong.  It’s going to be tough traveling but I hope I can do well.

Question: When on the court just now, do you feel the pressure?  Do you think that you will be able to take the pressure?

Yeah, it’s going to be a battle with myself.  I think mentally I have to be strong and focused.  There’s a lot of outside things going on in Japan so I will try to focus myself and try to do my best tennis I can.

[in Japanese]

Question: Why did you change from Basel to Valencia? [Ed. note: Both tournaments take place the week of Oct. 20.]

Just for a change.

Question: After seeing the [lineup of opponents]?

Yes, that may be one of the reasons.

Video: Kei Nishikori – 2014 Malaysian Open press conference – Sept. 28, 2014
video by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine