Kei Nishikori Presser: I Almost Didn’t Play The US Open, So I Wasn’t Expecting Anything
by Tom Gainey | September 6th, 2014, 6:02 pm
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Kei Nishikori became the first Asian man in history to make a Grand Slam singles final after shocking top seed Novak Djokovic 64, 16, 76(4), 63 earlier today.

Nishikori has now beaten three Top 5 seeds in No. 5 Milos Raonic and and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka as he awaits the Marin Cilic-Roger Federer winner.

Coached by Michael Chang, the 24-year-old Nishikori is also the first of the next generation of players to make a Slam final.

Afterward, Nishikori talked to the press about the big win.

Q. Are you surprised? Your coach sounded confident a couple of days ago that you could do this, but are you surprised at this?

KEI NISHIKORI: Maybe a little bit, but not too much. You know, I was ready to play, you know, these kind of players always. Especially this year I have been playing really well. I went to final in Masters once and, you know, I have been beating those top guys already. But I knew I was a little bit nervous, getting nervous, you know, first time semis here. But I think the confidence helped for today’s match. I was playing really well and really aggressive, and, you know, didn’t wait for the ball. Even the opponent is, you know, Novak, I was playing my tennis. Everything worked well today.

Q. Can you tell us what happened about your famous fragility? Everyone says, Kei is very good but he’s fragile or can get injured or maybe even before the tournament doesn’t know whether he can play, maybe he plays, what? What happens? You can be stronger?

KEI NISHIKORI: You know, I tried to work on my body a lot this year. Even last year, too. But, you know, even it at the tournaments I tried to do a lot of rehab training. Off season tried to do a lot of training stuff, you know, more than tennis. You know, I feel like I’m getting stronger.

Q. The heat? Djokovic could hardly walk at the end.

KEI NISHIKORI: I mean, I don’t know. I guess I’m too strong then. (Smiling.)

Q. It was very tough conditions out there, sticky and humid. Obviously played a lot the last few days.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah.

Q. Just wondering how you think your body would be feeling if you had to play the men’s final tomorrow like it has been for a long time?

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it’s going to be really tough if it’s in few years ago. But I think that two days — last couple of days helped so much. You know, it wasn’t easy, you know, playing two five sets and four hours’ match. You know, it was even tough for me to play today. Especially third and fourth I couldn’t really put effort for every game. But, yeah, you know, I tried to concentrate with those important points. Especially last game, you know, I tried to get more energy and tried to concentrate again. You know, I have been doing that well, you know, from couple of years ago. I hope I recover well tomorrow and ready for Monday.

Q. American sports fans know Japanese baseball players and golfers. Tennis, not so much. Were you drawn to any of the other sports when you were growing up?

KEI NISHIKORI: I used to play soccer a lot same time as tennis. Yeah, I know it’s big sports, you know, baseball and soccer.

Q. And golf.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, golf, too. But I’m happy, you know, to get bigger tennis. I hope more kids start playing tennis. I mean, doesn’t matter if it’s tennis, you know, but sports can help those also economy and bring some news too. It’s always exciting to play, you know, sports. It’s a little bit different to than U.S. in Japan. U.S. has a lot of respect for the sports, but not as much in Japan. I hope I can make a little bit difference.

Q. First of all, congratulations for your first-time final.

KEI NISHIKORI: Thanks.

Q. You won the match. You hit the last winning shot. But what impact did it have having Michael Chang in the box being part of the team for you?

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it’s been really helpful. He’s been help me a lot from end of last year. Also helping mentally. Yeah, him and Dante working really well, and I feel my tennis is changing little more aggressive and playing more confidence. He’s tough, but I, you know, sometimes needed, you know, something. Some people can push me well and, yeah, it’s been working really well I think.

Q. Michael showed very little emotion as a player. In the box he shows a lot of emotion. How does that make you feel?

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it’s been really helpful when I getting, I don’t know, tired or frustrated. You know, he can help me from the box, too. Yeah, it’s good.

Q. When you had the cyst removed in August, what did you think your prospects would be at the Open? How did you think you would do here?

KEI NISHIKORI: Almost nothing. (Smiling.) I just started playing points few days ago before the tournament. I didn’t even know if I should come to New York, you know, so I wasn’t expecting nothing actually. But after playing first match and second match, you know, I get more confidence on my foot and it was no pain at the moments. I was start sliding little more. But my tennis was there already. I was really, you know, try to play one match at a time and now I’m here. But I don’t know. I may have to rest three weeks before the Grand Slam.

Q. What do you think of now you will play that big final and possibly against Roger Federer?

KEI NISHIKORI: I mean, I don’t know yet. Yeah, I have to set up mind for the final from tomorrow, I guess, you know, and try to not to get too nervous. Mentally I have to stay focused. I think that’s the best most important thing for me to play final on Monday. Tennis is there, so, yeah, hopefully I can recover well tomorrow and try to focus for the Monday.

Q. There has been a lot more attention recently on a couple of the other guys in your generation with Raonic and Dimitrov. Are you surprised to make this final before them? Did you think that was possible?

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I guess. Yeah, I guess those guys doing really well. Yeah, especially in Wimbledon. You know, I was a little bit surprised how they do, how they can be really strong, you know, after couple years they can be number, I don’t know, 1 or 2. I’m really happy to get in that situation. I know young guys making a little bit surprise in changing those top 5 players. You know, even Marin this year in the semis. But, you know, a little bit surprised for me to play final.

Q. When Novak played Andy on Wednesday night and the match went on past midnight, did you stay up to watch it or were you tucked up in bed?

KEI NISHIKORI: No. I watched maybe second set, but, yeah, I slept.

Q. You’re always afraid to not focus enough, but you always make the important points, tiebreakers. Chang, I interviewed Chang the other day, and he said you have very good sense of humor. Out of 25 questions you answered one and everybody was laughing in Japanese. Can you tell us what they asked and what you answered?

KEI NISHIKORI: Sorry, I don’t remember. (Smiling.) Yeah in Japanese I can make some fun, but not yet for the English. I’m not good of speaking yet. Sorry. (Smiling.)

Q. Right now we don’t know who you are going to play in the final, but I heard that you always say that Federer is one of your idols. Would it be a dream come true for the final facing Federer? From no expectation from beginning or even though come to New York, sum up your trip to the US Open.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I don’t really care who is in the final. You know, I have been playing well. Yeah, Roger is my idol. I always love to play. I love to watch, you know, all the time. But, you know, when you play it’s different. I have to beat my idol sometimes. I have been beating him already. Yeah, it’s going to be good, you know, if he wins. But, you know, I don’t really care who is at the side of the net.

Q. You have a really strong five-set record. I wondered, in this tournament you have also been real strong in terms of the way you’re pacing your matches. Has Michael Chang helped with that, or do you feel that’s really intrinsic in your game?

KEI NISHIKORI: I think I had it before, you know. I’m No. 1 history in winning five sets or three sets, s I don’t know. I always try to concentrate again beginning of the fifth set. It’s not easy to focus again, you know, after playing three or four hours. I don’t know, I do it well somehow. Sorry, I don’t know.

Q. If you could take us inside that third set, some of those big points that you won, just describe what that was like out there for you.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it was not easy after losing second set, because he was playing much better tennis and I felt like I have no chance if he play like that. I was running side to side, and physically I was a little bit, you know, tired i he can make, you know, side to side every point. But, you know, I thought of have no chance but, you know, I try to be a little more aggressive and I changed my tactics a little bit. Was very shame after losing 5-4 my serve, but it was tight tiebreak, too. I was winning 4-0 and he came back. You know, very close game. But, you know, that’s helped after winning third set. You know, I tried to concentrate again. You know, I tried to win this set. Otherwise I didn’t, you know, believe if goes fifth set I didn’t think I can run. So, you know, very happy to finish in four sets.

Q. I think the match ended today ended at about 4:00 a.m. Japanese time.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah.

Q. You made history. Now as you go to the final, do you hope the eyes of Asia are upon you?

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah. I hope a lot of people watching. I know it’s tough time. You know, it’s completely opposite side. But I got like 20 message already, even if it’s 4:00 a.m. Very happy to make another history. It’s first time to reach Asian, you know, people in the final. So I hope I can win and to make another history.

Q. You mentioned if you play Federer, but Cilic is winning now. If you play Cilic you’d be the favorite in that match probably. Talk about that match, going into that match by another guy who is also not expected to be in the final.

KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I been playing with him couple times, but he was different story. He’s been playing really well, very aggressive, you know, very fast tennis. I know he’s been getting stronger. I mean, whoever comes it’s going to be tough final.


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