|By Erik Gudris
|Photo Credit: Mark Peterson / Corleve
(January 24, 2012) When Kei Nishikori defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, he not only achieved a career milestone but became an even bigger star in his native Japan. Nishikori is working with coach Dante Bottini who reached a career high ranking of 700 in singles on the ATP Tour before shifting his emphasis to coaching and training while working at Nick Bollettieri’s Academy where he first met Nishikori.
Before Nishikori takes on Andy Murray in their match later today, Bottini did a quick Q&A with TennisNow.com about what fans can expect today.
TN: How long you’ve been working with Kei as his coach?
DB: In December 2010, Kei contacted me to start working with him along with Brad Gilbert who worked as a consultant for the last six weeks of 2011. Kei and I had a good chemistry and worked very well together so we extended the contract for one more year.
TN: 2. Kei came back from two sets down against Matthew Ebden and had a long five setter against Tsonga. How is he feeling physically considering he also played mixed doubles with Kimiko Date-Krumm yesterday?
DB: He did a great pre-season and we worked hard on his physical conditioning. He is feeling great and is excited to play in the quarterfinal.
TN: In dealing with five set matches, are there any specific things you work on with Kei in terms of strategy no matter who the opponent is?
DB: I always tell him to stay there in the match. Also to go point by point, to play each point like it would be the last one and be patient.
TN: How are you and Kei preparing for his match against Murray today? What does he need to do differently than he did last time they played in Shanghai?
DB: We are taking it like it is another match. We don't care if it is a quarterfinal of a grand slam. He is going to have to be more aggressive to his (Murray’s) forehand and try to have big percentage of first serves. Also mix it up his second serve a lot.
TN: What are you thoughts on taking on Ivan Lendl in the coach’s box?
DB: Obviously I have the biggest respect of Lendl. One of the best players in the history. But likely the match is going to be Nishikori against Murray not Lendl against Bottini hahaha.
TN: Kei is receiving a lot of extra attention for making the quarterfinals of a Major for the first time. How is he dealing with that and how are you trying to keep him focused despite all of the attention?
DB: He is dealing great with all the media. He knows that he is doing a great tournament and he does not have to prove anything to anybody rather than him. We’ve been talking about the strategy to play this match since he beat Tsonga. He is really focused and happy to play this match