Nishikori, the other champion who dared to challenge Nadal's reign

With the elimination of Tommy Robredo at the hands of Fereico Gaio in the first round of the qualifying round, in this edition of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell Trofeo Conde de Godó there will be only two tennis players who have won it previously: Rafa Nadal and Kei Nishikori. And it is not surprising, because in Manacorí he has won the tournament eleven times since he won his first title in 2005. Fernando Verdasco (2010) and Dominic Thiem (2019) are the only ones, along with Nishikori, who have won. the tournament since Nadal's 'reign' began.

And the Japanese tennis player, in addition, achieved it twice. They were two consecutive editions, 2014 and 2015, when the Japanese athlete became one of the best tennis players in the world. He reached fourth place in the ATP rankings and played the only Grand Slam final to date: the US Open in 2014. However, today, he is far from that level shown in the middle of the last decade.

Nishikori is currently 39th in the ATP ranking after a 2020 in which he has practically not been able to compete. In addition to passing the coronavirus, the Japanese tennis player suffered a wrist injury at Roland Garros that has taken him away from his best level. But he has not given up. He has considered 2021 as a year of return to his best level, as he believes that he can “return to the top-10 of the ATP” if he plays “regularly”, as he told Nikkan Sports.

It is on this path of 'return' to the elite that Godó enters, a tournament that he knows perfectly and with which he has always obtained good results. After the two consecutive wins, he could not repeat in 2016 because he met Rafa Nadal in the final. This year they will meet much earlier (in the second round if they pass their qualifying rounds) on the way to revalidate a title that today belongs to Domic Thiem, the last winner.