My heart beats faster with excitement from just hearing/seeing/saying these three words. The US Open. Tennis is my passion. I love watching it and I love playing it. It's my sacred place where I restore, rejuvenate, and reconnect with myself.
For a few years by now, it's been my tradition to take vacation time off of work to attend my favorite event on earth in Flushing Meadows. This year was kind of a big deal for me as a Japanese citizen, or even as a member of the Asian race. Kei Nishikori became the first Asian man to make a Grand Slam final, and I got to witness him beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. And that, was just beyond amazing, considering Nishikori’s match against Milos Raonic ended at 2:26am on Tuesday morning (every winner of these matches had lost in the next round), and he also played for four long hours with Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday. That’s almost twice as much time on court that week as Djokovic spent. Not to mention, heat and humidity that day was just so awful, I felt nauseous at times just sitting and watching them play and my skin got so burnt that it's still peeling to this day (yes, gross, but it was worth it). Imagine playing hard core tennis in this kind of condition for a long time as if your whole career depended on it.
I have been following Nishikori every year at the Open. I was just surprised at how much stronger and buffer (is this even a word?) he seemed to have gotten and was also very impressed with how much better he was playing in general in his first round. There was a sense of security in watching him play, and this was not always my impression of him. Nishikori lost in the first-round of the U.S. Open to someone seeded at No. 179 last year. So again, his win against Djokovic this year was just so incredible, and I'm very grateful to have been there.
Very very brutally hot and humid.
Kei's happy dance.
More pictures of Nishikori continues in my second part of this post.