Japan's rising tennis star Kei Nishikori jumped up the ATP rankings Monday after a good run that ended with his final defeat to Roger Federer, generating wide acclaim from the national media.
"Reaching the world's top ten and Grand Slam victories seemed so distant for Japanese players. But he is stepping closer," the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said about Japan's highest ranked men's player.
Nishikori climbed from 32nd to 24th in the world rankings, even after succumbing to a 6-1, 6-3 loss at the hands of Federer in Sunday's Swiss Indoors final, according to ATP.
Wild card Nishikori won praise from Japanese media for his tournament performance, in which the 21-year-old also beat an injured world number one Novak Djokovic and top-ten ranked Tomas Berdych on his way to the final.
"His achievement of not losing to anyone other than King Federer is proof that Nishikori clearly can count himself in competition with the world's top players," the Yomiuri said.
US-based Nishikori was once a practice partner with Federer, who said he was delighted with Nishikori's progress.
Nishikori has suffered a string of injuries, but many in the Japanese media said the Swiss tour allowed him to showcase his true potential.
Nishikori was named the 2008 ATP Newcomer of the Year, the first Asian player to win the award.
He gained attention when a foundation established by Japan Tennis Association president Masaaki Morita sent him to Florida, where he started training at the renowned Nick Bollettieri Academy aged 13.
He made his professional debut in 2007.
In only his fifth tournament, then 18-year-old Nishikori caused a sensation by capturing his first ATP title at Delray Beach in February 2008 to become the second Japanese man to win a tour title.
Nishikori's impressive debut at the US Open in 2008, where he reached the fourth round and beat then world number four David Ferrer on the way, put him in the world spotlight and earned him highly lucrative sponsorship contracts.
Last month he climbed to 32nd in the world -- the highest ranking for a Japanese male player, which before Monday's jump was the highest . The previous high was 46th of Shuzo Matsuoka, who retired from competitive tennis in the late 1990s.
On Sunday Federer returned to winning mode ten months after his last title, and notched up his fifth Swiss Indoors title.