Kei Nishikori says he can see himself being able to compete with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal again for the first time in months.
Nishikori was a fixture in the top ten a few years ago, but he has seen his game severely hampered by elbow and shoulder injuries since.
He looked much more like his old self in Rotterdam this week though, beating Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur before losing out to Borna Coric in the last eight.
And, while he wishes he could have gone further, he says it has been a really important week for him.
“I’m getting more confidence, but not 100% yet,” Nishikori said after the quarterfinal.
“Sometimes I still hesitate [to follow through fully on shots]. It was not great today, but last two matches were good.
“If I can keep playing matches like them, I keep getting better. Hopefully this week will be a springboard.
“Finally I’ve started feeling like I can compete with players like Novak Djokovic or Rafa Nadal to some extent.
“In Australia, I played Medvedev and I felt like it would be difficult to compete with top players.
“I hardly had a picture of that, but I think I’ve got some confidence this week.”
Despite his improved form in Rotterdam, Nishikori believes he still has work to do in terms of developing his game back to his former level, although they appear to be mainly mental now.
“I played some matches in a row for the first time in a while,” he said. “I was feeling a bit heavy today, didn’t play at best on defence and made easy mistakes.
“My shoulder is fine, I think it should be OK next week. I think I could have stepped forward more often in today’s match and especially in the match against [Alex] de Minaur.
“I still can’t move forward spontaneously, I’m discussing about the issue with my coach.”
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