Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka made history at the US Open on Wednesday when they became the first Japanese man and woman to reach the semifinals of 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 Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals of the women's singles. The 20-year-old Osaka is also the first Japanese woman to make the last-four of any Slam since Kimiko Date at Wimbledon in 1996. Japanese media and fans yesterday rained down the superlatives on tennis stars Kei Nishikori and Naomi.
"There is no stopping the Japanese players," screamed the Nikkan Gendai tabloid, after the pair became the first from the country to secure semifinal berths in both singles competitions during a Grand Slam. Particular praise was heaped on 20-year-old Osaka, who became the first Japanese woman to get into the top four at the U.S. Open. The last Japanese woman to achieve a Grand Slam semifinal was Kimiko Date at Wimbledon in 1996 - a year before Osaka was born. "Osaka was in full throttle from the start," Nikkan Sports said in its digital edition, reviewing her 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko. Osaka's feat was credited with lifting the share price of her racquet producer Yonex, which soared more than 10 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange while the headline Nikkei index sank. Meanwhile, Nishikori's victory over Marin Cilic was seen as sweet revenge for the 2014 US Open final, which ended in victory for the giant Croat.
"Nishikori gets his revenge on Cilic," said a Sports Nippon headline. Nishikori next faces Novak Djokovic, while Osaka will play Madison Keys from the U.S. Excited fans cheered on the Japanese players and allowed themselves to dream about silverware. "Great! I want to see her go against Serena in the final," said one Twitter user. "Awesome! Nishikori-san and Naomi Osaka get into the semifinals. Next match is vs Djokovic. Please win," wrote another. Meanwhile, world number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal will put his weary body on the line against a merciless Juan Martin del Potro today with a place in the U.S. Open final at stake. Nadal, the three-time champion, faces 2009 winner Del Potro and is two wins from clinching an 18th Grand Slam title. That would be just two behind Roger Federer and with an 11-5 career head-to-head advantage over the giant Argentine, he would usually be a comfortable favourite.