Project 45. No, not a rubbish nu-metal band or a straight-to-video science fiction film, but Kei Nishikori’s quest to become the highest ranked Japanese player in the history of men’s tennis.
Finally, over three years after bursting on to the scene with his maiden title at Delray Beach, a run to the semi-final in Shanghai was enough to see Nishikori jump 17 places to 30 and smash Shuzo Matsuoka’s career-best 46 in the process.
It is a significant milestone for the 21-year-old, and not just in terms of personal pride given that it is rumoured to activate bonus clauses with some of his substantial band of sponsors.
Nishikori’s vanquished quarter-final opponent, Aleksandr Dolgopolov, continued his recent crawl up the rankings, gaining a single place for the third time in the last four weeks to reach a new high of 17. You can’t argue with progress.
One notable (kind of) change at the top was Roger Federer slipping one place to number four, ending a run of 432 weeks in the top three.
In reality though, given that it will make no difference to his seeding at the Australian Open, it’s a purely superficial change.
Further down the rankings, Donald Young improved three places to 41 on the back of reaching the second round in Shanghai as a qualifier while Bernard Tomic moved up five places to 44 after a third round showing.
Tomic finally has some Australian company in the top 100 this week after shock Shanghai quarter-finalist Matthew Ebden improved 44 places to 80 after wins against Philipp Petzschner, Pablo Andujar, Ryan Harrison and Gilles Simon.
While he lacks the weapons to make a serious impact at the top of the game, Ebden has a good attitude on court and makes the most of his game. With a favourable draw at the Australian Open he’s certainly capable of taking another significant step up the rankings.
Finally, the only other top 100 to achieve a personal best this week was Spanish lefty Albert Ramos who moved up six places to 71 thanks to a shock victory over Marin Cilic in Shanghai – his first main draw win at Masters level.