By Jim Armstrong ,AP
TOKYO — Japanese fans celebrated Kei Nishikori’s stunning win over top-ranked Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open, staying up to the wee hours of Sunday morning to catch a moment of tennis history.
The 24-year-old Japanese ace beat Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in stifling heat to become the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
“The fact that he is the first Japanese to reach the final is very inspirational,” said Tokyo office worker Keiko Mikami, who stayed up late to watch. “I hope we can all learn the value of never giving up from him.”
About 350 supporters crammed into a hotel reception area in Nishikori’s hometown of Matsue, a seaside city of nearly 200,000, to watch a live broadcast of the match that ended just after 4 a.m. local time.
Those who didn’t stay up late were elated to awake to the news.
“I watched the news as soon as I got up this morning. It’s great. He is the first Japanese to go to the final, right? And he beat the No. 1 guy. Well done!” said Yuki Tateishi, an IT company employee, taking a break at shopping mall in the Tokyo suburbs. “I’ll try to stay up and watch the final.”
Others praised Nishikori for his Yamato damashii — Japanese spirit.
“It is great news,” said Nobukazu Yoshimizu, a financial institution employee. “He’s Japanese, he’s rather small physically, yet he is full of energy and spirit.”
Nishikori’s win has captivated a country that has had few male players to cheer before. For years, female players like Ai Sugiyama and Kimiko Date-Krumm contended at the Grand Slams, but now Nishikori is the face of Japanese tennis.