Kei Nishikori is playing in the U.S. Open final tonight. The Japanese native will face Croatian Marin Cilic on the court in Flushing, Queens.
Here’s what you need to know about the 24-year-old who is breaking all kinds of records this year.
1.He’s the First Asian-Born Male to Play in a Grand Slam Final
On September 9, he will face Marin Cilic on the courts at the U.S. Open, and is breaking a record while doing it, being the first Asian native to be in a Grand Slam final.
He retweeted this picture of the people in his hometown of Shimane, Japan, watching him beat Djokovic, enabling him to advance to the final.
— Tennis Photos (@tennis_photos) September 7, 2014
According to Sports Illustrated, he is also the first No. 10 seed to make the U.S. Open final since Pete Sampras in 2001.
2. He is the 1st Japanese Player Since 1918 to Reach the Open’s Semifinal
— ユニクロ (@UNIQLO_JP) September 6, 2014
In his first-ever Grand Slam semifinals, he beat the world’s number 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic, in four sets, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 to advance to the final.
He is the first Japanese player since Ichiya Kumagae in 1918 to reach a U.S. Open semifinal. No man from the country had made it to the final four at any major tournament since Jiri Satoh at Wimbledon in 1933.
3. A Sony Exec Funding His Early Training
At 14, he left his native Japan to travel to Florida to enroll in IMG Academy.
This was made possible by former Sony executive Masaaki Morita, who started a fund for the education and training of promising Japanese tennis players.
4. He Was Injured During the Spanish Open
He played against Rafael Nadal, and lost, although he was playing, “the best tennis of his life.”
Watch the highlight reel above to see how the game played out in May of this year.
He told Ubitennis, “Yeah, it was my hip, and actually everywhere after second set. My legs was hurting too much.”
Nishikori led Nadal by a set and a break before eventually losing due to back pain.
5. His Coach is a Former Grand Slam Champion & His Rumored Girlfriend, a Gymnast
— Tennis Lover (@maya_federer) September 4, 2014
Michael Chang, the youngest male player to win a Grand Slam singles title, at the age of 17, is Nishikori’s coach.
During 2014’s Wimbledon, Chang said:
Kei has put in lots of hard work, but if you don’t believe that you can do something, you’ll never be able to do it, regardless of how skilled you are. That’s how important the mental side of tennis is. It’s been a combination of working on the mental side with Kei, but also a lot of work on the game and on the technical side. If I’ve seen something that needs to be improved or tweaked, I’m going to make that suggestion, and we’re going to work on that together – that’s the exciting thing.
As far as his personal life goes, he has been linked to, a Japanese gymnast who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.