Nishikori in grand slam final
On Sept 8, Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese to play in a grand slam final. It's at the U.S. Open. His opponent, Marin Cilic whom he defeated 5 times. But Cilic was not his match. His serves were superb. Nishikori lost all 3 sets. In the semi-final Nishikori defeated number one ranker, Novak Djokovi. After the final, Nishikori's ATP ranking rose to 8th place.
Wimbledon victory for Sugiyama
Japan's Ai Sugiyama won the women's doubles title on July 6 with her Belgian partner Kim Clijsters. It was 6-4,6-4 over Paolo Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual. Sugiyama and Clijesters also played in the French open a month ago, together and won the same category too.
Sugiyama clinches top rank
It was learned that Ai Sugiyama was ranked first in the women's double on Oct. 23 according to WTA. Sugiyama at that point already had 6 wins this year. It's the first time for a Japanese player to achieve such feat.
Sugiyama wins US open
This time Ai Sugiyama's pairing up with Julie Halard-Decugis proved successful. On Sept 10 they played in the final of the women's doubles. The pair defeated Zimbabwe's Cara Black and Elena Likhovtseva of Russia 6-0, 1-6, 6-1. After the victory, Japanese Foreign Minister visited the winners and congratulated them for their first grand slam victory. Sugiyama's next challenge is at the Sydney Olympics where she will play with Nana Miyagi.
Sugiyama fights in Wimbledon final
Ai Sugiyama formed a team with France's Julie Halard-Decugis in the women's doubles. They went up to the final and played on July 10, but faced a defeat before the Williams sister-- Serena and women's champion Venus. The score was 6-3,6-2.
Sugiyama wins first Grand Slam title
On Sept. 9 in the US Open, Ai Sugiyama won in the mix double in the US Open. She and Indian Mahesh Bhupathi faced Americans Kimberly Po and Donald Johnson, and defeated them 6-4,6-4. It's Sugiyama's first grand slam win. Bhupathi had his first taste of the title in the French Open in 1997 with another Japanese, Rika Hiraki.
Sawamatsu announced retirement in tears
25-year old Naoko Sawamatsu spoke before the press on Sept. 18 to confirm her decision to retire from pro tennis after the Toyota Princess Cup on Sept. 20. Sawamatsu is the niece of Kazuko Sawamatsu who won in Wimbleton in 1975. She explained that she realized her motivation ton perform better has been lost. Sawamatsu made it to the best 8 in Wimbleton in 1996 after her hometown Kobe faced serious damage from the big earthquake. Sawamatsu played her final tennis match as a professional player on Sept 23, against Monica Seles. She lost 2 sets to 1.
Another Japan Open title for Sugiyama
For the second straight year, Japan's Ai Sugiyama clinched the Japan Open on Apr. 19 at the Ariake Colosseum. She is the top seed in the 1998 tournament. In the final, Sugiyama faced Corina Marariu of the U.S. and defeated her 6-3,6-3. Sugiyama is currently number 19 in ATP ranking. The winner of the men's single was Romanian Andrei Pavel.
Hiraki is the first Japanese to win French Open
25 year-old Rika Hiraki teamed up with India's Mahesh Bhupathi for the first time at the French Open. Bhupathi said he heard that Hiraki was looking for a partner, so he asked to play with her in the mixed doubles. The new couple won one game after another, and in the final game on June 7, faced the first seeded American pair, Lisa Raymond and Patrick Galbraith. The Japanese-Indian team overwhelmed the Americans 6-4, 6-1. Hiraki has become the first ever Japanese to win the French Open. It's also been 22 years since a Japanese won a grand slam event. The previous one was Kazuko Sawamatsu who clinched the Wimbledon doubles title. For more on Hiraki, to OTHER STARS
Japan Open victory for Sugiyama
Ai Sugiyama won the Japan Open at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo on Apr. 20. She defeated Amy Frazier of the US in the final 4-6,6-4,6-4. This is her first WTA tour victory which gives her 27,000 US dollars. Sugiyama ranks 30 in the world. She turned pro in Oct. 1992 and is 21 years old.
In the men's event, Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands overpowered Lionel Roux of France in the final with 6-2,3-6,6-1.
Date is presented with a prestigious award
Retired former pro tennis player, Kimiko Date was named honorable sportsperson by the Ministry of Education. The 26 year old lady was formally presented with the award on Jan.22. Now, it's very unusual that a person so young has been given such a title. You may not believe this, but until now, people over the age of 60 were honored with the award.
Date's final game
Kimiko Date played for the last time in the WTA tour championships on Nov.22. She faced up and coming 16-year old Martina Hingis and was easily defeated 6-1, 6-2. The 12,116 crowd in New York's Madison Square Garden saluted to Japan's great player after she played the quarterfinals of the Chase Championships.
Date's farewell ceremony in NY
Kimiko Date made her farewell speech in Madison Square Garden in English on Nov. 19. She said "this is not the end. It's only the beginning of a new life". Japanese children living in NYC paid tribute to Japan's best ever tennis player with a song. Date played against Monica Seles that day in the Chase Championship. Date was winning 5 games to 4 in the 1st set when Seles gave up. Seles could not play any further, because of pain in her left shoulder. This means we will get to see Date play another game.
Date decides to retire
Shocking news for tennis fans! Date announced on Sept.24 that she will retire from tennis at the end of this season. In the press conference, she said that she has played intense tennis for the past few years, and it's about time for her to take a break from professional playing. There is rumor that she might marry a popular Japanese actor.
Date defeats Arantxa Sanchez
Kimiko Date defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the finals to clinch the Toshiba Classic in California on August 25. Date overturned the game 3-6, 6-3,6-0. In the semi-finals she took the win from another top player Conchita Martinez. Date was awarded 79,500 dollars plus a boost in her WTA ranking from number 9 to 6.
Date in Wimbledon
In Wimbledon on July 2, Date beat France's Mary Pierce to proceed to the semi-finals. This has made her the first Japanese women to make it this far in one of the world's most prestigious tennis championships. She won 3-6 6-3 6-1. The day before, Date defeated Conchita Martinez. In the semi-finals, Date faced number one seed Steffi Graf but lost the game 6-2,2-6,6-3. Many say, she would've been able to overwhelm Graf if all 3 sets were played on the same day. The third set was put off to the next day due to sun set
Date beats Graf
Date has become the first Japanese woman to beat world's number one ranking player on April 28, 1996. This was at the Fed Cup match held at the Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo. 4th ranking Date defeated Germany's Steffi Graf.
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