Darn Good Sport
ASIA’S NEW TENNIS DARLING, Kei Nishikori, TALKS TRAINING, TRIUMPH AND SPICY FOOD AS HE PREPARES TO FIGHT FOR A GRAND SLAM TITLE AT THIS MONTH’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Kei nishikori’s eyes widen. He starts to sweat. The beam that almost permanently illuminates his face mutates into an expression of amused panic. The 25-year-old tennis star has just tasted a piece of spice-riddled softshell crab at Hutong during lunch on a stopover in Hong Kong. “May I please have a glass of milk?” he asks a waiter, following a suggestion that a dash of dairy might quench the fire in his mouth. He smiles through the pain, demonstrating the same determination that led him to rewrite the sport’s history books in September when, at the US Open, he became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final. Nishikori was defeated in straight sets by his Croatian opponent, Marin Cilic, but the charming Japanese dynamo gets his second chance Down Under this month. Following the retirement of China’s tennis queen, Li Na, in September, fans, sponsors and commentators have pinned their hopes for Asian tennis on Nishikori—and he doesn’t want to disappoint.