History Made: How Nishikori Became First-Ever Unranked Man To Win Challenger Title

History Made: How Nishikori Became First-Ever Unranked Man To Win Challenger Title

Kei Nishikori made his return to tennis after a long absence due to a hip injury that required surgery and it was a grand entrance.

Nishikori is back! Literally back, both on the ATP Tour and on the ATP Rankings. The Japanese player is back on the rankings having completely fallen off of them due to inactivity. He's in the Top 500 now though a long way to go to the Top 50 where he certainly belongs.

It's been a long time since Nishikori played with his last match before this week coming in October of 2021. Over 20 months ago, Nishikori stood on a tennis court, but the return was glorious. He bested the entire field at a Challenger event in Puerto Rico ending up with the trophy. Despite being a challenger trophy it's still a trophy, his first since 2018.

It was a great moment for the Japanese player as he really took a long time to get back. The comeback was pushed back multiple times, as he initially planned to make a return at the Delray Beach Open. Hip injuries are complicated as we've seen with Murray and more recently Nadal, and Nishikori's was harrowing enough.

It left Nishikori battling depression due to an inability of getting back to playing but he refused to call it quits. He didn't want to see his career end this year and promised to come back despite not being the youngest anymore. He proved it this week and expect him quickly to hit some balls with the top guys as well.

The triumph in Puerto Rico was notable because of another milestone. He became the first-ever unranked player to ever win an ATP Challenger trophy. It's never happened at the top ATP level either and understandably so.

Still, a really cool thing to achieve for a player whom Nadal famously called one of the best when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that wasn't often but hopefully more so in this closing chapter of his career.


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