Although his first venture into a Grand Slam final was not a successful one, Kei Nishikori knows there is no turning back from here.
A remarkable fortnight in New York would see the Japanese No. 1 flout the laws of tennis and overcome 15 hours of grueling competition to arrive at his first ever Major final. His list of victims during this landmark journey includes Canadian No. 1 Milos Raonic, reigning Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic – a trifecta of Top 10 opposition.
Many thought that crossing the finish line would be the easiest part, as he was faced with the tournament’s 14th seed Marin Cilic, whom he led 5-2 in the head-to-head series. Cilic’s most recent victory over Nishikori took place at the US Open in 2012, which should have served as a harbinger for the trouble that soon followed.
Although Nishikori fell in his first Grand Slam bid against Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, he knows the step he took on Monday would mean a permanent shift in the tennis landscape.
“I think I showed my potential that I can beat anybody now,” said Nishikori. “So if I can keep training hard and also practice hard, I think I will have more chances coming up. “
Apart from the string of marathon matches heading into the final, Nishikori was also emotionally spent from the magnitude of the occasion, and was simply unable to maintain focus when it mattered most.
“I was feeling almost too excited,” added Nishikori. “I was thinking about today’s final. It is different than the semis. The title is there. So many things to think about. I was trying to concentrate, but it wasn’t enough. I played too much tennis on the court these two weeks and couldn’t fight one more match.”
A native of the Land of the Rising Sun, Nisihkori knows that his fellow countrymen were up late watching him, and while he regrets his inability to win the title on his first attempt, he is proud of the historic achievement he fulfilled for his country.
“Here I even see a lot of news from Japan. It’s great to bring great news to Japan. Tennis has not been the biggest sport there. Women’s, yes, but men never made it this far. I’m really happy to make history. Hopefully I can win next time and have another good result like this.”