The man standing in his way in Sunday’s Brisbane International final is Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
But Japan’s Kei Nishikori has his sights set on much bigger game in 2017 – world No.1 Andy Murray and 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic.
World No.5 Nishikori on Saturday stunned US Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 in just over 90 minutes in their Brisbane semi-final at Pat Rafter Arena.
Now Nishikori wants to try and do the same against the sport’s biggest names – Murray and former world No.1 Djokovic.
“This one will give me a lot of confidence, and hope tomorrow,” third seed Nishikori said of his Brisbane semi-final win over Wawrinka.
“But my goal is to beat Novak and Andy.
“I think those two are really dominating the tour right now, especially Novak.
“I have lost to him, like, seven times last year so I hope I can get him next time.”
Djokovic dominates his head-to-head record against Nishikori 11-2 – claiming the last 10 wins – and Murray’s 8-2 tally against the world No.5 is just as daunting.
But Nishikori is backing himself to threaten the big boys in 2017 after some morale boosting efforts last year.
In July he snapped a 16-game losing streak against top five players by beating three-time grand slam winner Wawrinka in Toronto.
And in September’s US Open, Nishikori defeated Murray in a four hour, five set boilover to advance to his second grand slam semi-final.
He lost to eventual champ Wawrinka in the semis.
“I think that was my biggest win last year, especially playing five sets in a grand slam (against Murray),” Nishikori said of defeating the Scot.
“It gave me a lot of confidence.
“I have played a lot of good matches against Andy but against Novak, I haven’t done well yet so that’s going to be my next goal.”
Nishikori’s immediate goal is overcoming world No.17 Dimitrov in Sunday’s Brisbane men’s final.
Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Dimitrov upset top seed Milos Raonic of Canada in straight sets in Saturday’s other semi-final.
The seventh seed brought an abrupt end to world No.3 Raonic’s title defence, romping to a 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 win in just under 90 minutes.
Former world No.8 Dimitrov has bounced back after plummeting to 40th in the rankings just six months ago.
“I think he started playing much better last year, especially at the end of the season,” Nishikori said of his opponent.
“I think he’s playing better again. He’s the next top 10 player.”
Nishikori has made his maiden Brisbane final after three previous semi-final campaigns and he will be confident in the knowledge he has never lost to Dimitrov in three previous meeting.
It is Dimitrov’s second Brisbane final after losing the 2013 decider against Murray.