Nishikori eyeing Grand Slam success

LONDON (AP) Kei Nishikori is confident he will build on a breakthrough season that saw him reach his first Grand Slam final.

The Japanese reached his first major final earlier this year at the U.S. Open and qualified for the ATP Finals for the first time, losing in the semifinals to top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Saturday.

The 24-year-old Nishikori, whose early career was hampered by injuries, improved dramatically this season under the helm of coach Michael Chang, who is credited for boosting Nishikori's self-belief.

''Hopefully I can have a good preparation in December and arrive with good confidence,'' Nishikori said when asked if he would travel to the Australian Open next year as one of the favorites. ''For sure I will go to try (and win).''

Nishikori claimed four titles in 2014 and climbed to fifth place in the rankings, becoming the first Asian player to finish a season in the Top 10.

He posted wins over the two best players in the world. Djokovic en route to the final at Flushing Meadows and defeated Federer at the Miami Masters.

''I think I need a bit more experience to get there,'' Nishikori said, reflecting on Federer and Djokovic's achievements. ''But I think you also get more motivation when you get a higher ranking. Hopefully I can keep going like this next year.''

The 5-foot-10 Japanese, who lives in the United States, posted 11 wins over members of the Top 10 this year. Against Djokovic on Saturday, he managed to take one set off the Serb, who had lost just nine games in his three previous matches.

''It has been one of the best years for me, I did really well,'' Nishikori said. ''Now I have to train well during the offseason and stay injury-free again. I think I will have chances in big tournaments, especially Grand Slams.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.