(Adds Nishikori quotes)
LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - Japan’s Kei Nishikori believes he can win Wimbledon this year after breezing through his first-round clash with Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-2 6-2 6-0 on Monday.
The ninth seed did not disappoint the legion of Japanese fans who gave him a hero’s welcome as he walked on to Court 12, demolishing an opponent who was playing his first senior-level match on grass.
He said afterwards that he was confident he could eclipse his best performance at Wimbledon - the last 16 in 2014 and 2016 - and that he aimed to “win the whole thing”.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “I hope I can make it.”
Japan’s highest-ever ranked player did not show any sign of the injuries that have forced him out of the last five grasscourt tournaments he has contested, going back to 2015, including at Halle in Germany last month.
The 27-year-old said he could not pin down the reason for his run of injuries on grass - variously affecting his calf, hip and ribs - but added that he struggled with the summer switch from clay courts.
“Now I‘m feeling very good, feeling 100 percent again,” he said. “I hope I can stay healthy these two weeks.”
Nishikori outclassed his opponent from the first point when he powered a backhand winner down the line.
Cecchinato, ranked 102nd, could not handle Nishikori’s thundering drives off both wings, with the 24-year-old Italian’s one-handed backhand proving particularly fragile.
Nishikori showed off his full repertoire of shots in a faultless third set which he peppered with delicate drop shots and ended with an emphatic volley.
His toughest challenge of the day was making his way off the court as he was mobbed by dozens of fans seeking autographs. (Reporting by Pravin Char; editing by Ed Osmond and Kevin Liffey)