Mon, Sep 08, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Breakfast joy hits Japan as Nishikori makes history

AFP, TOKYO

Japan’s social media lit up yesterday as the country awoke to the news that Kei Nishikori had become the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

Nishikori completed a historic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in New York in the early hours of the morning Japanese time, which public broadcaster NHK hailed as “an unprecedented achievement for Japan.”

The Nikkei Shimbun even immediately updated its Web site to carry news of the triumph.

Many bleary-eyed tennis fanatics had to watch live Internet streams of the match — which began just after 1am Japan time and lasted close to three hours — with the action only available on television via a satellite subscription network.

One hardcore Nishikori fan, Minako Takigawa, 35, said: “It’s so amazing. I stayed up to watch and still can’t sleep, I’m still buzzing. I’ll be a nervous wreck for the final.”

TV commentators screamed themselves hoarse, yelling: “Nishikori through to the final,” as the 24-year-old dropped his racquet after clinching match point before sheepishly ruffling his hair, scarcely able to believe the scale of his achievement.

In Nishikori’s hometown of Matsue in rural Shimane Prefecture, about 300 fans cheered on their idol while watching on a giant screen, Nishikori retweeting a photograph of them waving banners as he stormed to the biggest win in Japanese tennis history.

“I don’t care too much about history,” world No. 11 Nishikori told local media. “I might feel a bit nervous, but I definitely believe I can keep this form going and go on to win it.”

Nishikori’s previous best Grand Slam performance had been reaching the last eight of the 2012 Australian Open, and not since Kimiko Date-Krumm reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 had Japanese tennis witnessed anything close to Nishikori’s heroics in New York.

Should Nishikori overcome Croatia’s Marin Cilic in today’s final, the impact on the sport in Japan could be potentially enormous — and it could not come at a better time, with Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympics.

“This is definitely huge for Japan,” Wimbledon champion Djokovic said.

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