It’s been nearly 100 years since a Japanese professional tennis player has made it to the US Open semifinals. It was left-handed Ichiya Kumagae who made it in 1918, when he lost to South African Louis Raymond. Two years later, Kumagae went on to win two Silver Medals at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp (in Singles and Doubles, with his partner Seichiro Kashio). Kumagae was the first Japanese athlete to win an Olympic medal.
Tonight, 24-year-old Kei Nishikori, ranked #11 in the world, faces #1 Novak Djokovic. Nishikori has American tennis Hall of Famer Michael Chang in his corner; since December Chang has been working with Nishikori as coach. Nishikori’s unforeseeable advance to the semis comes despite a recent surgery that forced him to miss the last tournament in Cincinnati. He had a cyst removed just one month ago and was considered “something of a doubt” to play at the US Open only three weeks ago. He’ll have to perform his own procedure to remove Djokovic.