July 19, 2024

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MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Kei Nishikori enters Calgary and Drummondville Challengers

(Photo: Tennis Canada/Peter Power)

The city of Calgary and the town of Drummondville could get a glimpse of a pretty high-profile player in November.

Former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori, who had hip surgery last January and has not competed since the fall edition of Indian Wells last October, has been given wild cards into the two late-season Challengers.

Calgary is the week of Nov. 7; Drummondville is the week of Nov. 13.

Drummondville tournament co-president Alain Caillé is pretty excited, per a story in L’Express today.

“Kei Nishikori is a true star in his country. He’ll arrive here with his team of four of five people, including coaches Michael Chang and Max Mirnyi. It’s impressive! We’re really jumping into another league. He will be the biggest player to show up in Drummondville since the beginnings of the tournament. The fans will have the opportunity to see him from 10 feet away.”

(There’s a weird “joint quote” in a Tennis Canada press release, but we’ll spare you that one. If it’s at all possible, Open Court will definitely be there; Drummondville is about an hour outside Montreal).

We’re told Calgary tournament director Danny Da Costa, who has been both enterprising and relentless in getting this tournament back on track after the pandemic, was the one who reached out to Nishikori’s team and negotiated the Japanese star’s participation, with the cooperation of the Drummondville event.

Nishikori, who’s body has been letting him down the last few years, had arthroscopic surgery on his hip in late January, and expected to be out about six months.

Optimistically, the 32-year-old was trying to be ready for the US Open. When that didn’t happen, he was hopeful of being able to compete at his “home” event in Tokyo next week.

That, too, won’t happen as he withdrew from the tournament last week.

Before the hip, it was a persistent elbow issue that was the challenge for Nishikori, whose current ranking is No. 748.

Nishikori at the 2021 Australian Open.

Comeback via Challenger circuit

It’s not the first time Nishikori has dropped down to the Challenger level when returning from injury. Although obviously, at this point, there would be no ATP tournaments for him to play in November anyway.

He was out from the 2017 Masters 1000 tournament in Canada through the 2018 Australian summer season.

The Japanese star then returned at Challengers in Newport Beach, Calif. and Dallas (which he won) in late January, 2018 before getting back on the ATP Tour at the New York Open in February.

There are a number of Challenger tournaments in October – in California, Las Vegas and Charlottesville – as well as Challengers during the weeks of those Canadian events in Knoxville and Champaign.

It remains to be seen if he plays in October – he may well enter one or both of the California events. But it’s a cool add for Canadian tennis fans that he’s opted for the Canadian events over the American ones.

Hopefully, this is the last postponement of his return.

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