A story in English about Kei's press conference after the draw yesterday.
I think he was speaking in Japanese at the conference.
Nishikori hopes to enjoy time in spotlight
By Ken Marantz / Daily Yomiuri Sportswriter
He's still 55 ATP tournament titles behind Roger Federer, but for one week in Tokyo, Kei Nishikori will get a feel for what life is like for the Swiss superstar.
"It will only happen once a year, but to get so much attention from so many people makes me really happy," Nishikori said Saturday following the draw for the AIG Japan Open at Tokyo's Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
Nishikori, who became the first Japanese to win an ATP title in nearly 16 years when he triumphed at the Delray Beach International in February, will face American Robert Kendrick in the first round on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Nishikori is making his second appearance at the 869,000 dollars tournament, but under extremely different circumstances.
Last year, he entered as an unknown wild card. This time, with the ATP title and an historic performance at the U.S. Open to his credit, Nishikori represents nothing less than the future of Japanese men's tennis.
The result has been ticket sales and media attention on par with the years that Federer graced the hardcourts of Ariake.
"I don't feel any pressure," Nishikori said, but tournament organizers will certainly be hoping he can stick around longer than he did last year, when he lost in the first round to American Zack Fleishman in three sets.
"Of course I want to win the title, but last year I lost in the first round and I want to get through that," Nishikori said. "I was really disappointed last year. Having the tournament in Japan raises my motivation."
Nishikori, whose rank has risen from 289th to start the year to 85th, has never faced Kendrick, but said he is familiar with him. The two are both based in Florida.
"I know him well and I'll have to come up with a strategy," Nishikori said. "He's a big server."
Two victories would put Nishikori into a third-round clash with fourth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France. Should he make it as far as the semifinals, a rematch with No. 1 seed David Ferrer of Spain is possible.
It was Nishikori's stunning victory over Ferrer in the third round at the U.S. Open that turned heads and made him the first Japanese man to make the round of 16 in 71 years.
In the women's 175,000 dollars Tier III tournament to run concurrently, Kimiko Date-Krumm will face sixth-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel in her first appearance in the main draw of a WTA event in 12 years, while Ai Sugiyama pulled out due to injury.
"As a TV analyst I saw her play and I know she's tough," Date-Krumm said of the 37th-ranked Peer. "I want to do well in the first round and I'll try to be as ready as possible."
Having reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 1995, Date-Krumm is currently 230th. She retired in 1996 but launched an improbable comeback six months ago. She has won four Challenger Series titles.
But Date-Krumm came up short in qualifying for the Toray Pan Pacific Open two weeks ago.
"My serve and movement weren't very good, but after the Toray I took a break and I feel I'm moving better now," said Date-Krumm, who turns 38 today. "Of course a match is different from practice."
The Japan Open provides good memories for Date-Krumm. Four of her seven career WTA titles came at the Japan Open, which she won in 1992, '93, '94 and '96.
Sugiyama withdrew citing a left hip injury suffered during the current Beijing Open, where she won in the first round before losing the China's Zheng Jie.
"I want to play but under these circumstances, I couldn't give a good performance," Sugiyama said shortly after returning to Japan. "I have two more tournaments this year [in Zurich and Linz] and I hope to recover in time for those."
(Sep. 28, 2008)