Japanese teen Nishikori makes tennis history at US Open
More than two-and-half hours into a marathon US Open slugfest, Japan's Kei Nishikori sat down during the break between sets and pulled a small red and blue book out of his gym bag and started to read.
Nishikori, who had just dropped two straight sets in his third-round Grand Slam tennis match against world No. 4 David Ferrer, studied the words carefully, the AFP reported.
"I was reading about what I should do in the match," he explained. "Such as stay calm. And don't get pissed off too much."
Nishikori took the words to heart, beating Ferrer 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7- 5 in a thriller to become the first Japanese man in the modern era to reach the round of 16 at the US Open.
"I still can't believe it," said Nishikori of the three-hour, 25-minute match against the 2007 US Open semi-finalist. "I was playing great. This is the biggest win for me."
After squandering a two-set lead, Nishikori, who is ranked 126th in the world, stepped it up in the fifth set, clinching the victory on his third match point.
The 18-year-old Nishikori is just the second Japanese to reach the fourth round of any Grand Slam in the modern era after Shuzo Matsuoka made it to the 1995 Wimbledon quarter-finals.
By reaching the fourth round, he surpassed countrymen Jun Kamiwazumi (1973) and Toshiro Sakai (1971), who advanced to the third round of the US Open before being eliminated.
"I never think about it," Nishikori said of his historic run at Flushing Meadows. "That I am making history or something. But I know Shuzo made the quarters of Wimbledon."
The unseeded Nishikori will next face Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, who comes into the fourth round riding a 22-match win streak.
Nishikori became the first Japanese in 16 years to capture an ATP title by winning the Delray Beach tournament earlier this year.
Nishikori, who was ranked 281st at the end of 2007, won 61 percent of his first serve points and converted eight-of-14 break point chances on Saturday.
He clinched the victory by hammering a forehand winner to the open court on his third match point and second match point of the final game.
"I was tired and my legs were almost cramping," he said. "But I tried to tell myself that I am playing David and he's number four in the world. That made me feel kind of happy and think more positive.
"I was tired too so I just tried to fight in the fifth set."
Spain's Ferrer survived the first match point in the ninth game of the fifth set by hitting a backhand winner. Nishikori was broken two points later when he miss-hit a shot off the top of his racket, allowing Ferrer to close the gap to 5-4.
"He is a very good player. He serves very well," Ferrer said. "I fought a lot but Nishikori played better than me."
Nishikori has trained for the past five years at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida after arriving in the United States without his family as a 13-year-old.
"I had two friends come with me," he said. "I couldn't speak English. I was so nervous. I was scared of everything, all the American people.
"But now it is fine."