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January 27, 2009

Kei Nishikori

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us here in Bradenton, Florida. The youngest player in the ATP World Tour Top 100 rankings, Kei Nishikori. Last year he won his first ATP World Tour title in Delray Beach, defeating James Blake. He moved over 200 ranking spots to finish as the youngest player in the yearend Top 100, and he was also the top Asian player in 2008. He finished No. 63.
He is ranked No. 59 in the last ATP World rankings, and he last year became the first Japanese player since Shuzo Matsuoka to finish in the Top 100 in 1995. Later in the year, Kei advanced to the fourth round at the US Open where he defeated David Ferrer along the way.
Before we start, I'd like to turn it over to tournament director Bill Rapp.
BILL RAPP: Thanks, good morning, Kei, and thank you for joining us.
BILL RAPP: We just want to officially welcome you back to the SAP Open in San Jose. Wanted to ask you a couple of questions. If you would, talk about your first tournament win in Delray Beach, and then also if you would just describe your experience here in San Jose last year beating Hartfield in the first round and your experience playing against Andy Roddick.
KEI NISHIKORI: I was very happy to win in Delray. I played a challenger two weeks before Delray and lose and I had no -- almost no confidence. But I just played well in Delray. Played one match at a time, just beating all the top players gave me so many confidence.
I'm very happy to be back at the SAP Open. I lost second round against Roddick in the -- I didn't play bad. But it was great. A great experience. I hope I had better results this year.

Q. Right now there's a lot being made of Andy Roddick being in a lot better shape, now he's in the semifinals in Australia. Have you noticed a different Andy Roddick since he's gone through this tournament?
KEI NISHIKORI: I haven't seen his play. But long time, he has a good serve, and his strokes are good. I don't know. He gets more confidence, I guess.

Q. And that win over James last year, how did that change your career?
KEI NISHIKORI: I was surprised a bit. It gave me more confidence, and he was Top 10, and that was first time I beat Top 10 player. It just gave me so much confidence.

Q. How far are you from maybe where you'd like to be in terms of maybe -- what are your short-term goals and long-term goals in tennis? How far can you go?
KEI NISHIKORI: Trying to be Top 50 as soon as possible as I can. Want to do good in a Grand Slam, of course. I like French Open, so I want to win the French Open first. I want to be number one in the world in, I hope, a few years.

Q. What do you need to advance significantly in the rankings in terms of your game in particular?
KEI NISHIKORI: My forehand and speed. I'm trying to be -- not miss a lot my ground strokes. And I've got to use speed more. And improve more my serve. More percentage and control. I think my serve is weakness right now. So just work on more my serve.

Q. Last year you mentioned that you were a little nervous that Roddick was actually watching you in your first round match in San Jose. Are you beyond that now? Are you -- do you figure you're just as good as anybody else, and you're no longer nervous or in awe or intimidated by anybody?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I get confidence after Delray and more tournaments, and I was 200 at that time with my ranking. So I couldn't -- I was more respectful for the top players.
But now I'm 60 right now, and I can see all around, all the top players. So I know more people. So it's better than that time.

Q. One last question. You're so popular in Japan, and, you know, you might be on your way to a higher popularity here in the States, could you explain the difference between just, you know, walking down the street in Tokyo versus walking down the street in San Jose?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it's tough to go outside in Japan and walk around, because everybody knows -- not everybody, but sometimes they can recognize me. But it's fun because I live in the States all the time. Nobody knows me.
So I go back to Japan only couple of times a year. I like to stay here, but at the same time, I want to go back to Japan, too. Yeah.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Japanese for Kei.

Q. As a first year pro, what's been most difficult and most fun?

Q. This is from a bunch of junior tennis players from Japan. They want to know what computer games you play.
KEI NISHIKORI: PlayStation 3 and Final Fantasy.
[ Questions in Japanese].
KEI NISHIKORI [Translation Summary by Interpreter]: My goal this year is to become a Top 50. Then that means I can play a Grand Slam. I'd like to play French Open. And I want to win the French Open in the near future.
My goal is to become No. 1. And my weapon is my agility, my speed and my forehand. My weakness right now is fast. I have to practice more service and then reduce unforced errors.
Last year in Delray Beach I played top players I never played with before. And I played with them and I accustomed. Then I felt I'm getting better. So I enjoyed playing tennis because I feel like I'm getting better.
What about maybe pastime? I got PSP PlayStation 3 from Sony, and then I play auto racing game and Final Fantasy, that kind of game.
This year my goal is no injuries. Because last year I had so many injuries. So I sit this year. I try to have on no injuries. But in the first month already I got injured. So I feel this is the way it is, and also this is a time to deal with injuries.
Because the reason I got the injury is because my opponent is a very tough opponent. They are fast, they are thorough with the stroke, the stroke is very strong. That's why I'm competing with them, and it's kind of I have to train more. I don't know why, but I got injuries anyway.

Q. When you go to Japan, what do you like?
KEI NISHIKORI: I want to eat Japanese food, because in Florida cannot find not so much Japanese foods.

Q. What kind of food do you get?
KEI NISHIKORI: I think I'm going to get some snacks which in Florida I can't get. Also, I try to get lots of Japanese books, mysteries and also some kind of bestseller books. Lots of all kinds of books I'm going to get from Japan.

Q. How do you think about San Jose?
KEI NISHIKORI: I remember last year it was cold. Around tournament site, there are so many stores. It's a good place to play. I like indoors. Last year I could not play 100 percent. I lost in the second round. And then I played the second round, I played with Andy Roddick. He tried to do kind of a tactics. I couldn't play not so well.
Service percentage was low, but this year I expect much better because I like indoor. And also I have to play well because I'm losing my ATP points, last years points, Delray points. So I have to play better in the San Jose.
My play style is very aggressive. And also I used lots of variety of strokes. Mentally I am getting stronger. I talk to mental instructor about on and off. Means the instructor said sometimes you have to forget about tennis. Don't think about things all the time, then you're going to get frustrated. So I tried to use his word on and off. Sometimes I try to forget the tense, being tense.

Q. Why do you stay in Florida?
KEI NISHIKORI: I think because IMG Academy. There are so many good players, top players coming in, so I practice with them all the time. If I stay in Japan, I could not practice with those players.
Also, always the court is there and Florida is a very good environment for tennis and all sports. That's why I stay in Florida.
I like to play tennis when I picked up tennis at a young age. I liked practicing. I hit the ball with the wall by myself. Still I like tennis. That's the most important thing is I like tennis. That's why I'm keep continue to playing tennis. And keep trying to improve my tennis game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for that.

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