TOKYO (AP) — Kei Nishikori’s run to the semifinals of the U.S. Open was hailed as a “win for all of Japan” back home.
Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the U.S. Open semifinals in 96 years by outlasting third-seeded Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4 on Wednesday.
Japanese tennis fans had woken up at dawn to watch the quarterfinal and were rewarded.
“It was a spectacular win for all of Japan,” said office worker Toru Miura. “We haven’t had a lot of success in men’s tennis over the years.”
The previous Japanese semifinalist at the U.S. Open was Ichiya Kumagae in 1918. No man from the country had made it to the final four at any major tournament since Jiri Satoh at Wimbledon in 1933.
“It’s really impressive,” Japan Tennis Association director Masaru Uchiyama told Sports Hochi newspaper. “It was truly inspirational to watch as he came back after dropping the fourth set.”
The 24-year-old Nishikori, the first Japanese to be ranked in the ATP’s top 10 after climbing to No. 9 in May, faces No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Saturday.
Wednesday’s 4 hour, 15 minute-win over the Australian Open champion Wawrinka came a day after Nishikori defeated Milos Raonic in a fourth-round match that lasted over four hours.
“Even though he was tired he fought hard to the end,” said JTA director of strengthening and development Minoru Ueda. “Let’s hope he can get another win.”
Nishikori is coached by 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.
“He has improved his stamina immensely,” former Japan Davis Cup player Jun Kamiwazumi said. “I think the influence of Michael Chang has been a major factor in his progress.”