NEW YORK (AP) – Kei Nishikori stared at the Arthur Ashe stadium and noticed the crowd.
With Nishikori playing immediately after Naomi Osaka on Wednesday, the US Open became a must-see for Japanese tennis fans.
"It's good to have, you know, support at home outside of Japan," he said. "Yes, it's great news that we're both in the semifinals."
Historical news, actually.
Both players won – Osaka decisively, Nishikori narrowly – to give Japan a male and female semifinalist in the same Grand Slam tournament for the first time, according to the ATP Tour.
Nishikori recovered to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 in a game that lasted 4 hours, 8 minutes. Osaka defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in just 57 minutes, the third time in her five matches in the tournament that ended in less than an hour.
"I think she can, you know, win a title now, even (a) Grand Slam, so I feel, you know, a great opportunity for her," Nishikori said.
"I'm also glad for myself when I was injured last year"
That was a wrist injury that kept him away from the tour from late last season until the beginning of this year. He began to regain his form in the spring, returned to seed No. 21 for his return to Flushing Meadows, and awaits No. 6 Novak Djokovic on Friday.
Meanwhile, Osaka won a Masters degree in Indian Wells and with his streak in New York, where US Open finalist, Madison Keys, will soon play, has received more Japanese media followers, although he believes that there is a different reason for that.
"I think it's because of Kei," he said, parting his hands to show how much bigger Nishikori is in Japan, from where his family moved to New York when he was 3.
So big, in fact, that she Also nervous to talk to him until recently.