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2014年9月11日 (木)

錦織圭全米準V 「世界一」は次にとっておこう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
You did us proud, Nishikori, and you’ll beat ’em next time!
錦織圭全米準V 「世界一」は次にとっておこう

A Japanese man has become a finalist at a Grand Slam event. Kei Nishikori has fought magnificently on the world stage — we would like to hail his strenuous efforts.

Nishikori reached the men’s singles final at the U.S. Open, but was beaten by Marin Cilic of Croatia there on Monday.

He narrowly missed the chance of realizing his childhood dream of becoming a world tennis champion. Nonetheless, no Japanese player, man or woman, had progressed to the finals of a Grand Slam singles event before Nishikori.

It is certain that Nishikori’s achievement will be highlighted in Japan’s sports history.

In Monday’s final, Nishikori was unable to demonstrate his style of tennis, as Cilic took the initiative in the match with his strong serves. The loss may have been a blow to Nishikori’s pride, but we are sure that he will make the disappointment a springboard for further development. “I’m looking forward to returning here next year,” he said after the match.

In this tournament, Nishikori grounded top players one after another, including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia. This proved that Nishikori’s style of play, represented by his risk-taking but accurate groundstrokes, has climbed to the level of the world’s top class.

Ichiya Kumagai, Zenzo Shimizu and Jiro Sato — great tennis players who made spectacular showings in Grand Slam events before World War II — were mentioned in media as Nishikori advanced through the U.S. Open. But on the other side of the coin, this shows that Japan has failed to produce players that can compete at the world’s top-level for such a long time after those three.

How Air-Kei grew strong

Nishikori started tennis at 5. He moved to the United States eight years later to hone his skills, receiving support from a tennis fund established by Masaaki Morita, former president of the Japan Tennis Association.

Nishikori struggled initially to communicate in English, and experienced various forms of harassment while abroad. However, he did not give up and worked hard, turning pro at 17.

We assume that Nishikori’s never-say-die fighting spirit stems from the mental toughness he obtained through his life in a foreign country. We can also say that Nishikori’s advancement to the final reflects the long efforts of Japan’s tennis world to produce players who can compete on the world stage.

The influence of Michael Chang, an American who began coaching Nishikori from the end of last year, is also substantial. Chang is just three centimeters shorter than the 1.78-meter tall Nishikori. Chang, who won the French Open despite being small for a tennis player, is the perfect model for Nishikori.

According to reports, Chang spends time before sending Nishikori onto the court instilling in him the belief that he is stronger than his opponent. This underscores the significance of coaches who support athletes both in mental and technical aspects.

We assume many Japanese tennis players have become inspired by Nishikori’s achievement. He must have also prompted many children to decide to try tennis.

Nishikori’s achievement is a reminder that a dazzling performance of a star player contributes hugely to the spread of a sport, as well as raising its level. This is, of course, not limited to tennis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 10, 2014)Speech


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