LONDON (Reuters) - Kei Nishikori has shrugged off the pressure of being Japan's highest-seeded player at Wimbledon in the Open era and believes he is getting closer to the levels of the world's top players.
U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori is the fifth seed in the men's single at the All England Club, surpassing the seeding of compatriot Kimiko Date-Krumm, who was seeded sixth in the women's draw in 1994 and 1995.
Having reached the Australian and French Open quarter-finals this year, Nishikori is aiming to go at least one better than his career-best fourth-round exit at Wimbledon in 2014 when the tournament begins on Monday.
The world number five says his Florida base helps him to avoid the weight of expectation coming from tennis fans in Japan as he focuses on trying to win a first grand slam title.
"I don't feel any pressure from Japan, you know, because I live in the United States," he told a news conference at the All England Club on Saturday.
"In the match, I just try to focus what I have to do. I try not to think too much about outside things. I mean, I feel pressure sometimes, but I think I'm handling really well."
Nishikori beat each of the world's top four, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, in 2014.
"I think I'm getting close. I mean, not like winning a lot of titles yet, but I've beaten them a couple times. The next goal is to win the Masters or to win a grand slam," Nishikori said.
The Japanese has overcome the calf injury that forced him to retire in his semi-final against Andreas Seppi in Halle last week and is ready for his first-round match against Italy's Simone Bolelli.
"It's going to be tough for sure. We played five sets last year (which Nishikori narrowly won)," he said.
"He's good on grass but I've had a good preparation and I'm feeling good."
(Reporting by Sam Holden, editing by Ed Osmond)