US Open 2018: Japanese Nishikori, Osaka make history

 

NEW YORK, United States – Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka made history at the US Open on Wednesday, September 5, when they became the first Japanese man and woman to reach the semifinals at the same Grand Slam.

Nishikori reached the last four of the men's singles with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic – the man who beat him in the 2014 final.

Earlier, Osaka defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in the last eight, admitting she was "freaking out" inside.

"The quarters was sort of my mental goal, every time I played a Grand Slam," said Osaka.

"And after I went into the quarters, I kind of want to keep going, so I feel like I have to be focused again and keep trying really hard."

Nishikori will be playing in his third US Open semifinal after similar runs in 2014 and 2016.

The 29-year-old has also reached the quarterfinals of the three other Slams including Wimbledon this year, the first Japanese man to do so in 23 years.

"It's great to see," said Nishikori who missed the 2017 US Open due to injury.

"Naomi's doing well, because she has won a Masters (Indian Wells). I think she can win a title now.

"It's a big chance for her."

Freaking out

Osaka wasn't born when compatriot Kimiko Date made the Wimbledon semifinals in 1996, but now the 20-year-old has the opportunity to go one better by reaching a maiden Grand Slam final.

"It really means a lot to get to the semis," said Osaka whose post-match, on-court interview endeared her further to a growing legion of fans.

Osaka had reached the Australian Open last 16 in January in her previous best run at the majors.

She had also captured the prestigious Indian Wells title in March and defeated Serena Williams in Miami.

Osaka celebrated her win calmly and cooly unlike the floods of tears which greeted her last-16 victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

"I cried a lot last time and there were lots of people making fun of me. So this time I went straight to the net.

"I was freaking out inside and my whole body was shaking but overall I am most proud of not breaking a racket." 

Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian father, said she enjoyed playing in the blistering heat of New York which has been such a talking point of the tournament.

"I really don't think it's that hot, sorry. I'm used to Florida heat. I like sweating."

Born in Japan

Before Nishikori, only Shuzo Matsuoka had made the last eight in men's singles in a major at Wimbledon in 1995.

Date also made the women's last eight the same year in Wimbledon and the semifinals the following year.

Date was also a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 1995.

Until Osaka's run this year, the best New York performance by a Japanese woman was 2004 when Shinobu Asagoe reached the quarterfinals.

"Well, it definitely means a lot for me, and I always thought if I were to win a Grand Slam, the first one I'd want to win is the US Open, because I have grown up here," said Osaka, who was born in Japan but has lived most of her life in the United States.

"Then my grandparents can come and watch. I think it would be really cool."

Next up for Nishikori is a clash against either two-time champion and former world number one Novak Djokovic or John Millman, the Australian who stunned Roger Federer in the fourth round.

Osaka faces either US 14th seed Madison Keys, the runner-up in 2017 or Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro. – Rappler.com