PROFESSIONAL TENNIS N JAPAN: KEI NISHIKORI, AI SUGIYAMA AND KUMIKO DATE-KRUMM

TENNIS IN JAPAN AND JAPANESE TENNIS PLAYERS

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Sugiyama at the 2009 Wimbledon
The Japan Open tennis tournament is held in September. It usually draws some big names but not all of them. Rafael Nadal won the $1.26 million Rakuten Japan Open in October 2010 in his first trip to Japan. He beat France’s Gael Monfils in the final and took home $261,000. Among those who have won the Japan Open are Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer. The Toray Pan Pacific Open is a women’s tennis tournament held in Tokyo. The event was held in late September in 2011 and was worth $2.05 million. It was one by Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska. The 2012 Toray Pan Pacific Open drew 19 of the top 20 women players. The prize money for the late September tournament was $2.168 million.

In September 2011, Japan defeated India in tennis series, allowing Japan to secure a spot in the Davis Cup World group for the first time in 27 years.

Before Shuzo Matsuoka is the highest ranking Japanese male player ever. He won an ATP event in Seoul and reached the rank of 46 in 1992 . In 1995, he made to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. In 1992, Matsuoka, ranked 81st at the time, defeated Stefan Edberg in the semifinals of the Queen's Club grass-court tournament. Matsuoka's defeat over the Swede, who entered the match at London as world No. 2, had been considered the biggest upset by a Japanese player on the men's tour since the advent of the open era in 1968. In another memorable match Matsuoka was felled by cramps at the U.S. Open in 1995 and lay writhing in the court in pain but no one came to his aid out of concern that any move to help him would cause him to be disqualified. The moment led to rules changes that allowed trainers to help injured players.

In May 2012, Uniqlo Co. picked Novak Djokovic, the world's No. 1 male tennis player, as its global brand ambassador. Jiji Press reported: “The five-year partnership is designed to help promote the Uniqlo brand globally, mainly in Europe. It also includes collaboration in product development and contributions to society. Uniqlo will provide match wear to Djokovic, starting with the French Open Tennis Championships that begins. At a press conference, Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of Uniqlo's operator, Fast Retailing Co., said Djokovic not only is an excellent tennis player but also shares the company's strong desire to contribute to society. [Ibid]

In May 2007, Akiko Morigama won her first WTA event---the Prague Open, She heat Marion Bartoli of France, 6-1, 6-3. Bartoli, was ranked 24th in the world before the event. Morigama was swanked 600th,

Good Websites and Sources: Japan Golf Tour, Official Homepage jgto.org ; Ai Sugiyama Official Site ai-sugiyama.com ; Ryo Ishikawa, PGA Tour Profile pgatour.com ; Ryo Ishikawa, 18 Things to Know pgatour.com ; Golf Digest article on Ryo Ishikawa golfdigest.com/golf-tours-news Links in this Website: SPORTS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SPORT, FITNESS, FANS AND COMPANIES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RECREATIONAL GOLF IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Kei Nishikori

In February 2008, 18-year-old Kei Nishikori beat American James Blake 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the finals of the Delray Beach International Tennis Championship to become the first Japanese player to win an ATP title in 16 years. Nishikori was ranked 244th in the world before the match and moved up 113 places to 131st with the win.

The son of a piano teacher and an engineer, Nishikori was born on December 29, 2012, 1989 in Shimane, Japan. He lives now in Bradenton, Florida and is coached by Dante Bottini. He is 178-centimeter (5 feet 10inches) and weighs 68 kilograms (150 lbs). He is right-handed and turned pro in 2007.

Nishikori started playing tennis at age 5, and at 14 was selected to train at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Florida under sponsorship of the Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund established by Sony Life Insurance Co.’s former chief executive officer. He graduated from Bollettieri academy in Florida which has produced many top players such as Andre Agassi, the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova.. He once said, "There's a lot of good players in Asia. But, yeah, I'm happy to get to the top from Asia, and hopefully I can be like Li Na for the men."

As of December 2012, Nishikori was ranked 19th in the world. His highest ranking was 15th in October 2012, the month he won Japan Open, his second ATP tournament win. After recovering from elbow surgery in 2009, Nishikori returned to a top-100 ranking in 2010. After he defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in November 2011 he finished 2011 ranked 25th. [Ibid]

In October 2011 No. 47 ranked Nishikori beat No. 8 ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Shanghai Masters. After that he reached 30th in the ATP rankings, the highest ranking ever for a Japanese male tennis player. Three weeks after rising to 30th in the ATP rankings Nishikori becomes the 1st Japanese man to beat a world No.1 when he tops Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors. [Ibid]

Nishikori Bursts on to the International Scene

In 2008, at his U.S. Open debut, Nishikori stunned the world’s No. 4 player David Ferrer in a five set marathon (6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 7-5) that lasted three hours and 25 minutes, to advance to the fourth round where he was defeated 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 by Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, who has won 23 straight matches and four consecutive tournaments. At the time Nishikori was 18 and ranked No. 126 in the world. His goal at the U.S. Open was to win his opening match. He was the first Japanese man to make it the fourth round of the U.S. Open since 1937 and only the second Japanese to reach the forth round of any Grand Slam in the Open era. He was also the youngest male player to advance this far since Russian Martin Safin did it in 1998. After the tournament his ranking improved to 81st.

Nishikori is based in Florida and began training there in 2003 as at the Nick Bollettieri Academy that also produced greats like Andre Agassi, Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova. Nishikori made it the semifinals of Stockholm Open in October 2008 but then got creamed 6-1, 6-0 by Sweden’s Rubin Soderling. He reached 66 in the world ranking and then announces he would mis the rest of the 2008 season because of a knee injury. He started off the 2009 season with a first round loss in the Australian Open.

Nishikori was ranked as low as 244 in 2010. That year he played in his first French Open and was ousted in first round of Wimbledon by Rafael Nadal. He was a qualifier at the U.S. Open, where he upset the 11th-seeded Croatian Marin Cilic in the 2nd round in a five-hour, five-set thriller in extremely hot conditions. An injury to his groins caused Nishikori to quit his third round match against Spain’s Albert Montanes, who was leading 6-1, 2-1 when Nishikori quit. A right elbow injury kept Nishikori sidelined much of 2010.

Nishikori reached his 2nd career final in the U.S. Clay Court Championship in April 2011. He was ranked sixth in the event and beat top ranked Mardy Fish but lost in the finals. He was ranked 61st in the world going into that event. Nishikori reached the semifinals in the ATP Delray Beach International Championship in February 2011.

Nishikori fell in the 3rd round of the 2011 Australian Open, His 6-4, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3 second round victory over ninth seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco was a big upset and was the furthest advance by a Japanese player in 46 years.

Kimiko Date-Krumm

Professional tennis player, Kimiko Date, was ranked as high as number 4 in the world and once beat No. 1 Steffi Graff. Four of her career seven ATP titles came at the Japan Open which she won on 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996. In 1996, she retired at the age of 26 after a seven year professional career to marry actor Kiichi Nakai, nine years her senior.

Date retired in the prime of her career when she was a top rated player. She reached the Wimbledon semi-final in 1996 and then quit later that year. After announcing her retirement she said, "I've done all I can, and I am satisfied. I have no regrets."

Date lives in Tokyo and now is married to German race car driver Micheal Krumm and goes by the name Kimiko Krumm-Date. She worked for a while as a television tennis commentator, appeared in commercials in Japan for the Toyota Prius hybrid, was the first celebrity to drive a Prius and once attributed her success to rice balls.

Kei Nishikori wins Japan Open

In October 2012, eighth-seeded Nishikori beat Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-0 to win the Japan Open, his career ATP tour title and first in more than four years. Nishikori, a native of Shimane Prefecture in southern Japan, is the first Japanese player to win the tournament in its 41-year history. [Source: Associated Press, October 8, 2012]

AP reported: “Nishikori thrilled the home crowd by defeating the sixth-seeded Raonic in front of a packed house. He lost just two games on serve against Raonic, who lacked the spark he showed Saturday when he ousted top-seeded Andy Murray in the semifinals. Raonic was undone by unforced errors in the loss. "To have won this tournament in Japan is a very happy occasion for me," Nishikori said. "I made an effort to approach today's match as the challenger."

Nishikori broke Raonic to go up 2-0 in the final set with a nice backhand down the line. His confidence growing, Nishikori began coming to the net more frequently. After holding serve to lead 3-0, Nishikori rifled a two-handed backhand down the line to break for 4-0 and went on to close it out 6-0 with one more break. "I wish I could have started off serving better," Raonic said. "He was reading my serve really well from the beginning and that usually doesn't happen. I didn't create the opportunities and go for it like the previous two days."

Nishikori broke Raonic in the second game of the opening set, only the second time in 44 games in the tournament that Raonic dropped a game on serve. But Raonic later broke back and eventually forced a tiebreaker. Nishikori squandered two set points at 6-5. Raonic went up 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but Nishikori won seven of the next nine points to clinch the set. Raonic struggled with his backhand returns and sent one long to end the tiebreaker. Raonic found his rhythm in the second set and began to serve better, hitting eight aces, just as Nishikori appeared to tire. [Ibid]

Nishikori's previous victory on the ATP tour came in Delray Beach, Fla., in February 2008 when he was just 18. Raonic had won two tournaments this year, in Chennai, India, and San Jose, Calif. [Ibid]

Nishikori Makes it to the Olympic Tennis Quarterfinals

Adam Westlake wrote in the Japan Daily Press: “Despite his strong win against David Ferrer on in the final 16, Nishikori was once again unable to defeat his rival Juan Martin del Potro, losing the Olympic tennis quarterfinals match 6-4, and 7-6(4). This was the fourth time Nishikori played against the Argentinian, ranked number nine in the world, and just as many losses. While Nishikori became the first male Japanese tennis player to reach the quarterfinals in 88 years, he was truly hoping to take it a step further and become the first in 92 years to reach the semifinals. [Source: Adam Westlake, Japan Daily Press, August 3, 2012]

While his serve was in fine form all week, Nishikori ranked as the world’s 17th, says he just couldn’t get into his rhythm for the match against Del Potro. While he wasn’t thrilled about the game coming down to a tiebreak, and then losing, the 22 year old Japanese tennis star feels he is getting better at playing against his rival, and with more practice, will be victorious. Del Potro had nothing but praise for Nishikori, noting that he is improving every day, and adding that the gap between them is quickly closing. [Ibid]

In the final 16, Nishikori overcame fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 in one hour and 56 minutes. The match had been contested on Court 14 until bad light stopped play at 5-4 in the third set. Play continued under the roof and lights on Centre Court, with Nishikori needing just five points to break Ferrer to 15 and clinch victory. In the 2008 Beijing Games, Nishikori only made it as far as the first round before his elimination. [Ibid]

Nishikori in the 2012 Majors

In September 2012, Nishikori crashed out of the U.S. Open with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 third-round defeat to Croatia's Marin Cilic. Kyodo reported: “Nishikori, the 17th seed, was attempting to reach the last 16 for the second time in the event. The 22-year-old, however, couldn't cope with the big-serving Cilic, who fired 12 aces. Nishikori, who hadn't dropped a set in his first two matches, both against qualifiers, needed a tiebreak to take the third set, but couldn't slow the Croat's progress. "Neither my serve nor my returns were very good, and I couldn't get any kind of rhythm going," Nishikori said. "I couldn't get my forehand returns in and couldn't approach the net with confidence. My opponent was simply playing at a higher level than I was." [Source: Kyodo, AP, September 3, 2012]

In July, 2012 Nishikori became the first Japanese to make it the 3rd round of Wimbledon in 17 years. He lost to Juan Martin del Porto. The Japanese player entered Wimbledon after spending two months recovering from an abdominal injury. [Ibid]

Nishikori missed the 2012 French Open because of a stomach injury he suffered in Barcelona in April. He was ranked 18th in the world at the time.

Nishikori Makes History at Australian Open

Nishikori became the first Japanese male to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since 1932 when he held on to earn a shock five-set win over sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. CNN reported: “Nishikori, ranked 26th in the world, blew a two-set lead before beating the Frenchman for the second time in his career, triumphing 2-6 6-2 6-1 3-6 6-3 in three and a half hours. The 22-year-old beat his previous best grand slam performance “reaching the fourth round of the 2008 U.S. Open. He is the first Japanese male player to reach the last eight of one of the four majors since Shuzo Matsuoka at Wimbledon in 1995. [Source: CNN, January 23, 2012 ]

"This is the first quarterfinal for me," an exhausted Nishikori, told reporters after his second successive five-set match. "I feel I'm stepping up. It was tough because he was still playing well in the fifth. I was having trouble with making returns. I started getting nervous ... But still I was playing aggressive on important points. I was making good serves. So that helped me to get the games."

Nishikori played Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and got hammered 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 but not before he made a thrilling shot. The Telegraph reported: “It's the shot which sees tennis fans raising the roof and one which Roger Federer had the gall to use during his 2009 US Open semi-final tussle with Novak Djokovic but Japan's Kei Nishikori illustrated he also has the 'hotdog' shot in his armoury during his clash with Andy Murray. Nishikori may have lost his quarter-final contest, but Murray admitted his rival won most of the more entertaining points including his 'tweener lob'. Charging back from the net to retrieve a shot during the fourth game of the opening set, Nishikori lobbed Murray from between his legs, then smacked a forehand winner down the line after the British No 1 could only tap a volley harmlessly over the net. Murray attempted to repeat the trick in the following game but his swiped racket connected only with fresh air as he galloped across the baseline. [Source: The Telegraph, January 25, 2012]

Uniqlo Scores with Nishikori After He is Dropped by Sony and Adidas

In January 2012, Bloomberg reported: “Japan’s No. 1 tennis player Kei Nishikori’s historic run at the Australian Open won a torrent of publicity for sponsor Fast Retailing Co., attention Sony Corp. and Adidas AG missed by not renewing endorsement deals. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK purchased the rights to air Nishikori’s Australian Open match, boosting the estimated TV audience to 55 million viewers in Japan, after the 22-year-old defeated No. 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win a berth in the quarterfinals. [Source: Dave McCombs and Shunichi Ozasa, Bloomberg, January 25, 2012]

“The marketing effect of this endorsement is worth tens of billions of yen,” said Toshihiro Nagahama, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Research Institute in Tokyo. Fast Retailing has said the company benefits from its relationship with the athlete, even though it has resisted calls to market a tennis line. Uniqlo is getting “a lot of requests, more than ever--- from consumers seeking to buy the shirts, shorts and hats Nishikori wears, said Masahide Sakamoto, a Uniqlo adviser who travels with to tournaments. [Ibid]

“The fact that their phones are ringing is exactly why Kei is doing endorsement deals that are much larger than for the average tennis player,” said Olivier Van Lindonk, Nishikori’s agent and tennis vice president at IMG Worldwide Inc. He said the Uniqlo endorsement proposal was “more aggressive” than Adidas’s, while he declined to disclose the value of the agreement. Adidas Japan spokesman Yoshitaka Ikeuchi was not available for immediate comment. “The ripple effects for sponsors when athletes do well are huge,” said Nagahama of Dai-Ichi Life. [Ibid]

Sony, after helping Nishikori get started, isn’t getting the full “ripple” now that Nishikori has become the highest- ranked Japanese men’s tennis player on record. The consumer electronics maker, which has said it intends to cut costs after posting a third annual loss last fiscal year, allowed an endorsement deal with Nishikori to expire Nov. 13. Adidas, which has endorsements with players including Tsonga and Murray, lost the Nishikori clothing deal to Uniqlo last year, Van Lindonk said in a telephone interview. Nishikori and IMG chose Uniqlo partly because it offered “greater long- term potential for Kei to earn money,” Van Lindonk said. [Ibid]

“Uniqlo can become a partner for Kei for a long time, even after his playing days are over,” Van Lindonk said. He said the company may eventually develop a Kei Nishikori line or Kei Nishikori brand within the brand. “It’s more something that’s going to build over the years,” Van Lindonk said. [Ibid]

Clamor for Nishikori’s gear is also helping Wilson Sporting Goods Co. promote its rackets. Nishikori uses Wilson’s Steam model and will begin selling a special limited edition in Japan only in March or April. “At the end of the day, we’re building a brand and long- term value,” Van Lindonk said. “It’s not about cashing quick checks.”

Nishikori Beats No. 1 Djokovic in Swiss Indoors Semis

In November 2011, Nishikori beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a tournament in Basel, Switzerland before losing to Roger Federer in the finals. Kyodo reported: “Nishikori came from a set down to beat world No.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-0 in the ATP Swiss Indoors semifinals in one of the biggest upsets staged by a Japanese player in tennis. Djokovic has only lost three previous times the entire year (once to Roger Federer and twice due to injury retirements). [Source: Kyodo, Mainichi Shimbun, November 6, 2011]

Nishikori, ranked 32nd, lost the first set in just over half an hour but showed great resiliency in the second, bouncing back after coming just two points away from defeat to take the tiebreaker on his way to become what tour organizers say the first Japanese to defeat a world No. 1. "I wasn't able to play well until late in the second set, but I felt the quality of my game improved significantly from then on," Nishikori said after his epic win over the reigning champion of three of the Grand Slam events -- the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. [Ibid]

"Having gone through the last four in both of the tournaments I've been in recently gave me a confidence boost, and it brought changes to the way I play, indeed," said Nishikori, who had advanced to the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters in his previous tour appearance in mid-October. Nishikori's latest feat is reminiscent of an upset victory in 1992 by Shuzo Matsuoka, ranked 81st at the time, over Stefan Edberg in the semifinals of the Queen's Club grass-court tournament. Matsuoka's defeat over the Swede, who entered the match at London as world No. 2, had been considered the biggest upset by a Japanese player on the men's tour since the advent of the open era in 1968. [Ibid]

In the finals Nishikori got by Roger Federer. The BBC reported: “Federer beat Japan's Kei Nishikori in the Swiss Indoors final to win only his second title of 2011. Federer, 30, triumphed 6-1 6-3 over the 32nd-ranked wildcard, who shocked world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi. "It's great to win at home again," said Federer. "Kei put up a good fight. I knew when I hit with him as a teenager that he could have a good future." The 16-time Grand Slam champion dropped just one point on serve in a 28-minute opening set, while Nishikori took only six points off Federer's serve in the entire match. Nishikoriplayed Federer for the first time in his career and said it had been an ambition of his. "He didn't give me a chance, he was too good for me today," said Nishikori. [Source: BBC, November 6, 2011]

Nishikori’s showing in Basel qualified him for the Paris Masters, where he lost in the 1st round. [Ibid]

Nishikori Makes It Semifinals in Run-Up to Australian Open

In January 2012 Nishikori made to the final of a runner-up event to the Australian Open. AFP reported: “Defending champion Andy Murray was handed a berth in the final of the Brisbane International when Japan's Kei Nishikori retired from their semi-final with a knee injury. Murray had taken the first set 6-4 and was up 2-0 in the second when Nishikori, who had treatment on his knee at the end of the first set, decided he couldn't continue and conceded the match. [Source: AFP, January 5, 2013]

Nishikori started brilliantly against Murray and leapt out to a 4-1 lead before the reigning US Open champion began to find his range. He quickly broke back then took control as Nishikori struggled with his movement around the court. "I didn't know he was injured until late in the set," Murray said. "He was trying to play aggressively and keep the points short. "When I made him play the ball more I had him in trouble.” [Ibid]

Date-Krumm Comes back at Age 40

In 2008, at the age if 37, Kimiko Krumm-Date announced that she was coming out of retirement. A former Japanese No. 1. After coming out of retirement she did well in some second-tier tournaments and was ranked 230 in the world as of September 2008. In November 2008, at the age of 38, Kimiko Date Krumm won the All-Japan women’s singles title. She won the title in 1991 and 1992.

At the age of 38 and 11 months, Date Krumm won the Korea Open in Seoul, defeating second-seated Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain in the final. She became the oldest winner of a tournament in the open era. The oldest was Billie Jean King who a WTA tournament in 1983 in Birmingham at the age of 39 years and seven months. As of the end of 2009, Date Krumm was the highest ranked Japanese player at No. 70.

In May 2010, Date Krumm beat former world No.1 Safina in three sets at the first round of the French Open and at the age of 39 became the second oldest winner at the French Open after Virginia Wade, who was older when she won a match in 1985, and then beat her again to show it was no fluke at the Bank of the West Classic in California.

In September 2010, Date Kramm beat Maria Sharapova in the first round of Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo and beat Daniela Hantuchova, ranked 29th in the world, in the second round on her 40th birthday before finally falling in straight sets on to Francesca Schiavone, winner of the 2010 French Open.

In October 2010, 40-year-old Date Kramm beat top-seed and world No. 8 Samantha Stosur of Australia in the quarterfinals of the Japan Women’s Open in Osaka in a final set tie break. Date made it to the finals but lost to Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn in a three set battle. Date turned 40 in September. She was trying to become the oldest person to win a tour tittle. Date and the 33-year-old Thai played what was the oldest-known tour final with a combined total of 73 years.

In November 2010, Date made it to the finals of the Tournament of Champions in Bali, losing to 23-year-old Ana Ivanovic in the final and beating the No. 1 seed Li Na in the first round. The same month Date-Krumm won the silver medal at the Asian Games. She lost on the finals to China’s Peng Shuai. She won the gold medal 16 years earlier when the Asian Games were held in Hiroshima. Date finished 2010 ranked 51st in the world.

In June 2011 at Wimbledon, 40-year-old Date-Krumm won her first match, becoming the second oldest woman to win a singles match (Martina Navratilova won one in 2004 at age 47) so, and gave five-time-Wimbledon champion Venus Williams a run for her money in the second round winning the first set 7-6 (8-6) before falling 7-6, 6-3 and 8-6 afte rlosig a break the 14 game third set. Willaims said Date “played unbelievable today...I just thought today was a perfect storm to try to get a win...Fortunately I had some answers.”

Date said she traced her strength back to her childhood. She told Reuters, “When I was young I ate healthy food, not so much junk food.”

In December 2012, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Date Krumm was among four players named to Japan's team for its Fed Cup World Group first-round match against Russia, the Japan Tennis Association has announced. Joining the 42-year-old Date-Krumm to face Russia in Moscow on Feb. 9-10, 2013, will be Ayumi Morita, Japan's top-ranked player at No. 85, along with Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara.

Ai Sugiyama

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Ai Sugiyama is arguably Japan’s best tennis player. She has done well in both singles and doubles but has particularly made a name for herself in doubles. She won three Grand Slam doubles titles and has been a ranked No. 1 in the word in doubles In single she won six WTA tournaments and advanced as far as the quarterfinals in the Australian Open in 2000 and Wimbledon in 2004. She competed in 14 French Opens, making it to the forth round in her first tournament in 1995 and also in 2000 and 2003.

In July 2008, at the age of 32, Sugiyama broke the record for consecutive Grand Slam appearances---57---for both men and women by playing at Wimbledon . She played in her first Grand Slam, Wimbledon, in 1993 when she was 17. Her streak began in 1994 and included 15 Wimbledon, 14 U.S. Open, 14 Australian Open and 14 French Open appearances, The previous record of 56 was held by South African Wayne Ferrerira. As of early 2009, Sugiyama’s streak of Grand Slams stood at 59.

Sugiyama’s feat is remarkable in that over 15 years she never missed a Grand Slam because of injury and has continued playing into her 30s without burning out. On tying the record she told AFP, “56 in a row, it’s hard to believe. Even now I’m really excited to be here. Sometimes there are ups and downs...but I always try my best...I’m also lucky to have been really healthy over my career.” On how she has lasted so long she told the New York Times, “Motivation-wise tennis is up and down, but right now I’m enjoying what I do. They key is enjoying. If I don’t enjoy it, there is no meaning in being on the court.

Sugiyama is 5 feet 4 and weighs 121 pounds. She was ranked in the 30s in 2008. She usually wears a sun visor, modest earrings and a heart pendant around her neck. Sugiyama’s mother is her coach. She always travels with her. Her mother runs a tennis academy for juniors. As a single player she won several tournaments in Japan but only won two tournaments outside it. As a doubles players she is known for her aggressive and quickness to the net and has won tournaments in Moscow, Doha, Sydney, Montreal, Rome and Memphis. In 16 years on the tour she has won $7.4 million.

Ai Sugiyama and Grand Slam Doubles

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Sugiyama won doubles titles in three of the the four Grand slams---Wimbledon, the French Open, the U.S. Open but not he Australian Open. She and Kim Clisters won the women’s doubles title at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2003. She was only the third Japanese palter to win a Wimbledon title. The victories were a mixed doubles win 1934 and a women’s double win in 1974. Sumiyama had lost in the finals in 2000 and 2001.Earlier she won in mixed doubles and doubles at the U.S. Open.

In 2007, Sugiyama and her Slovene partner Katarina Srebotnik were runners up at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. At the Australian Open and Wimbledon. times they were defeated bu Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Liexel Huber of South Africa. At fell 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 at Wimbledon. At the French Open they were beat by Lisa Raymond of the United States and Samantha Stosur of Australia with Sugiyama double faulting in the first set tie breaker to give her opponents the set. . It was the second year in a row the were runners up at the French Open.

Sugiyama has make the finals in doubles in the Australia Open but has not been able to win. In 2009 Sugiyama and her partner Daniela Hantichova lost 6-3 , 6-3 ro Venus and Serena Williams in the doubles final in Melbourne. It was Sugiyama’s first appearance in the Australian Open doubles finals. Only 19 players have completed the Grand Slam in double titles.

Sugiyama played the last match of her 17 year career in the doubles finals at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in October 2009.

See Olympics Sports and Keirin, Gambling

Image Sources: 1) 2) 3) Wikipedia 4) Japan-Photo.de, 5) Japan Zone,

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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