Tokyo: Former tennis great Andre Agassi on Saturday backed Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori to become a Grand Slam winner, hailing him as one of the greatest shot-makers ever.
US tennis legend Andre Agassi with Japan's Kei Nishikori (smiling) during their doubles exhibition match in Tokyo on Saturday. Pic/AFP
Nishikori has climbed to World No 5 after a breakout year in which he won four titles and reached the US Open final, but Agassi insisted it was only a matter of time before the swashbuckling 24-year-old captures one of the four majors.
"Listen, he was one match away from US Open," the former World No 1 told AFP after playing with Nishikori in an exhibition event in Tokyo.
'Unlucky to lose in US Open'
"Probably the biggest reason for (not winning the title) was the physical wear and tear over the course of the tournament, and sometimes that's a bit unlucky.
There is no question in my mind he believes he can win a Slam," added Agassi (44) who won eight Grand Slam titles in an illustrious career before retiring in 2006 — the year before Nishikori made his professional debut.
"I've seen him play with that purpose. From a talent perspective, he's very capable of winning a Grand Slam. He's dynamic and incredibly fast."
Agassi, who smacked several eye-popping shots past Nishikori before going down 8-6 in an abbreviated match, insisted that the Japanese had the weapons to topple the game's big three of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
"He beat Djokovic on the way to the US Open final, and if he did it once he can do it again," said the flamboyant American, tipping Nishikori to be at the forefront of any changing of the guard in men's tennis.
What he's done is very impressive in this day and age to do the way he does it. Kei is one of the greatest shot-makers the game has ever seen and there's no reason he can't go on further."