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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Japanese Tennis Pro Nishikori Kei

Because there's nothing quite so hateful as being a bandwagon jumper - at least to the real fans of a sport, let's take a look at Nishikori Kei (錦織 圭) - surname first, of course, the up-and-coming Japanese tennis player who has taken the 2014 US Open by storm to land a spot in the finals - an awesome feat for a man currently ranked #10 in the world .

And while I would be remiss to point out that his opponent in the Finals is also an unlikely challenger―Marin Čilić of Croatia—currently ranked #14 - so an even greater underdog... and therefore an even greater story.

Nishikori, in fact, is 5W-2L all-time against Marin Čilić - so... well... he can lose to him, and he did in the Finals, three sets to none. Final score below. Congratulations to Čilić!

Still, this is a blog about Japan and Japan-related things, so lets take a closer look at Nishikori.

Nishikori was born on December 29, 1989 - so he's 24 years-old for you numerically-challenged people ), and is, obviously, a professional tennis player, ranked world No. 10 as of September 6, 2014.

He is the only Japanese tennis player ever to be ranked inside the top 10 in ATP Singles Ranking.

He started playing tennis as a five-year-old and won the All Japan Tennis Championships for Kids in 2001 when he was 10.

He graduated from Aomori-Yamada High School, and moved to Florida to join the IMG Academy.

He qualified for his first ATP event - the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles - when he was 17.

He was named the ATP Newcomer of the Year in 2008; won five singles titles, and; has reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 Australian Open and won the semi-final of the 2014 US Open.

He is the first-ever male Asian, let alone Japanese, player to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

Nishikori was also runner-up in the Madrid Masters in 2014.

Nishikori also played tennis with Michael Chang in Tokyo back in 2011 to raise money for the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami relief - awwww.

Specs:
  • Height: 1.78-meters;
  • Weight: 70-kilograms;
  • Hand: Right-handed;
  • Best Surface: Hard & Clay;
  • Best Shot: Forehand;
  • Turned Pro: 2007;
  • Coach: Dante Bottini & Michael Chang;
  • Residence: Bradenton, Florida, USA;
  • Trains: Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy;
  • Awards: ATP Newcomer of the Year 2008;
  • Prize Money: $3,298,459, not including 2014 US Open;
  • Sponsors: Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo.
According to those in the know, Nishikori has endurance by the bucketful. Along with a great forehand, speed and footwork, he utilizes his endurance to wear down opponents - to make games go as long as possible.

His hobbies include: football, golf, reading, and listening to music.

Anyhow, with the 2014 US Open and reaching the finals, why is this such an unlikely rise in the fortunes of Nishikori?

Well, consider that in 2013, Nishikori lost in the first found of the 2013 US Open to the world-ranked #179.

And yet, as of now, in his 20 prior major appearances, the 24-year-old advanced to just one quarterfinal - and yet he is ranked #10 in the world.

Nishikori must be doing something right.

Not including the Finals, Nishikori defeated the #5, #3 and #1 players to get there.

Here's what he has done right in the 2014 US Open:

Rd 1 - August 26, 2014, Completed
K. Nishikori      6      6      6
W. Odesnik       2      4      2

Rd 2 - August 28, Retired
K. Nishikuri      6      6      6
P. Andujar         4      1      0

Rd 3 - August 30, Completed
K. Nishikuri      6      6      6
L. Mayer           4      2      3

Rd 4 - September 1, Completed
M. Raconic       6      6(4)  6 (8)    5     4
K. Nishikuri      4      7      6 (6)     7     6

Quarter-Finals - September 3, Completed
S. Wawrinka     6      5      6(7)     7(7)  4  
K. Nishikuri      3      7      7(9)     6(5)  6

Semi-Finals - September 6, Completed
N. Djokovic      4      6      6(4)     3
K. Nishikuri      6      1      7(7)     6

Finals - September 8, Completed
K. Nishikuri      6      6     6
M. Čilić            3      3      3

-30-

Photo above is by Diliff - Own work, taken from Wikipedia.

Game, set and match,
Andrew Joseph

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