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Nishikori finding his way on clay

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Originally published on: 19/04/12 00:00

Kei Nishikori hasn’t played much on clay but the world No.16 has taken to the surface like a duck to water in Monte Carlo this week.

The 22-year-old Japanese player faces Tomas Berdych in the third round in Monte-Carlo this morning after recording impressive straight sets wins over Albert Ramos and Paul-Henri Matheiu at the Masters 1000 tournament.

One of the tour’s rising stars, Nishikori reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January – trumping his fourth-round best at a Grand Slam at the 2008 US Open – but has never been beyond the second round at Roland Garros.

“I'm getting better [on clay],” said Nishikori. “I cannot say it's my favorite surface. I have to still work on it. I need to get physical. I need more experience, I guess, to play on clay.

“[But] I have to start playing [more] on clay, because I haven't play[ed] many tournaments.”

The Monte Carlo event is Nishikori’s third on the surface this year. The Florida resident reached the quarter-finals at the ATP 250 tournament in Buenos Aires back in February, beating clay expert Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round before falling to Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. He then bypassed Albert Montanes in the first round in Acapulco, after the Spaniard retired towards the end of the second set, adding another win on the dirt to his locker to increase his belief in his all-round game.

“I decided to play on clay because I thought it's good for my tennis, the grind, it's good for the physical, too,” Nishikori added.

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