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See You In Court

Japan’s Kei Nishikori unloads on a serve during last year’s finals match.

Next week’s 2019 Hawai‘i Open promises to be a smashing good time for both fans and the event’s all-star players, who include defending champion Kei Nishikori.

Fan favorite Kei Nishikori returns to Honolulu to defend his Hawai‘i Open title Dec. 26-28, joining an all-star lineup of Taylor Fritz, Sam Querrey, Jordan Thompson and Christian Harrison on the men’s side, while Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Misaki Doi, Danielle Collins and Yanina Wickmayer make up the women’s field.

“Fans can expect really great tennis,” says Kyla Goldsmith, Hawai‘i Open CEO/CFO. “We have some of the world’s top talent competing, and we are excited to be at the Stan Sheriff Center for the first time.

“In Hawai‘i, Japan is one of our largest markets, and Kei has been the No. 1 Japanese player for a long time. We are excited to welcome him once again to O‘ahu. He’s also an all-around great person and super engaged with his fans, which makes him an annual favorite.”

Nishikori, accompanied by staff onto the court at Blaisdell Arena, is currently ranked No. 13 on the ATP World Tour.

For some of these players, Hawai‘i Open, which is presented by Ward Village and Hawai‘i Tourism, serves as an unofficial season kickoff, with the ATP and WTA tours getting back into full swing next month.

Nishikori, who battled Canadian Milos Raonic in an edge-of-your-seat finals match at last year’s Hawai‘i Open, says he’s excited to be back on island.

“Not only is Hawai‘i a beautiful place, but there are a lot of Japanese and it makes me feel at home,” he notes. “It was great to see so much support from the local people (at last year’s Hawai‘i Open). I really enjoyed meeting so many people in Honolulu and getting to learn more about the island. It was, of course, nice to win also.”

He lists the weather, people and culture as some of his favorite things about Hawai‘i, and says he can see himself visiting the islands a lot more after his tennis career, when he’s not busy traveling full-time on tour.

“I have been told that my first racquet was given to me (by my parents) in Hawai‘i on a vacation” he shares. “I was too young to remember, but it obviously means something to me.”

Currently ranked No. 13 on the ATP World Tour, the tennis star cut his season short after a third-round loss at the U.S. Open in September, and underwent surgery on his right elbow in October.

“I am still coming back day-by-day, but working very hard and looking forward to a great 2020,” he says. “My first step is getting back healthy on tour.”

The Shimane, Japan, native hopes to add to his 12 career titles at next week’s Hawai‘i Open, scheduled for Dec. 26-28 at Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawai‘i at M˛noa campus.

Born and raised in Shimane, Japan, Nishikori started playing tennis at age 5. He moved to Florida at 14 to join the world-renowned IMG Academy as a member of the Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund group sponsored by the former Sony executive. He turned pro at the Japan Open in 2007, and has since gone on to win 12 career titles. He even reached No. 4 in the world rankings back in March 2015.

As for his most memorable tennis matches, he lists the U.S. Open final in 2014 and his two Japan Open wins (2012 and 2014).

Now 29 (his birthday is Dec. 29), Nishikori still lives in Bradenton, Florida, and continues to train at IMG with Michael Chang, who is one of his coaches. But his favorite place in the world is Tokyo, which is where he sees himself in 20 years. He also loves Spain, and tries to catch an FC Barcelona game (his favorite soccer team) every year.

While his days are pretty long and repetitive — “wake up, stretch, eat, practice, lunch, more practice, fitness, eat and sleep” — Nishikori admits to being a “very lucky person” to be doing what he loves and is “absolutely” living his childhood dream as a professional tennis player.

He offers the following advice to young tennis players: “The main important part is to have fun. It sounds simple, but I mean it. Having fun makes development key.”

Nishikori bested Canada’s Milos Raonic in last year’s Hawai‘i Openfinals.

When he’s not busy training or competing, you’ll likely find Nishikori out and about shopping (his favorite store is sponsor Uniqlo, of course), dining at a restaurant (he doesn’t cook much) or watching a movie.

“I like the local restaurants,” he says. “When I am in a country, I try to eat the local food.”

He lists Japanese food as his favorite, adding that rice balls are his No. 1 snack. He also follows a very strict diet, and says he doesn’t drink alcohol. And he sleeps a lot — 10 hours a night!

His motivation in life comes from wanting to be the best he can be, and he says he relieves stress by surrounding himself with good people.

Looking back at 2019, Nishikori says he’s happy with the results in the Grand Slam and hopes it will help him get to the next level. His new year’s resolution? “To be healthy.”

There’s also the Hawai‘i Open next week. “I love being here,” he says. “Thanks (to the fans) for making me feel at home.”

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates her victory at the 2018 U.S. Open.

Tickets and three-day packages to the Hawai‘i Open can be purchased by phone at 944-2697 or online at etickethawaii.com. Daily tickets range from $10 to $200. Three-day packages are available in the lower level only and in a limited quantity, and range from $148 to $208. A 15 percent discount is available for military and students with a valid military or student ID (tickets need to be purchased at the Stan Sheriff Center ticket office). For more information, visit hawaiitennisopen.com.


Some of the world’s best female tennis players will be taking swing at the Hawai‘i Open presented by Ward Village and Hawai‘i Tourism Dec. 26-28 at Stan Sheri~ Center. Tennis fans won’t want to miss seeing ° ve-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova, three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber, 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins, 2019 Swedish Open champion Misaki Doi and 2016 Citi Open champion Yanina Wickmayer.

Three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber will be among the pros to compete at the Hawai‘i Open. PHOTO COURTESY HAWAI‘I OPEN

“I can’t wait to visit Hawai‘i,” says Kerber on her upcoming trip to Honolulu, which will be her first time to the islands. “From what I have seen and heard, it must be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. At the same time, I get to play against other top players, which makes this a perfect preparation for the upcoming season.”

When she’s not playing tennis, Kerber enjoys reading, playing other sports, going to restaurants and meeting up with friends.

“As in any other job, a good work-life balance is key — even though I love my work,” she explains.

Following the Honolulu competition, Kerber will head straight to Australia to play in tournaments in Brisbane and Adelaide, and then it’s the ° rst Grand Slam of the year — the Australian Open.

But until then, she’s looking forward to spending some time in paradise. “I surely won’t miss out on the amazing beaches,” she notes. “Flying in from European winter, I’m very excited about getting to know the island. It’s been on my bucket list for quite some time, and I can’t wait to experience it ° rst-hand.”

To her fans here, she says. “Aloha (laughs). No, really, I heard so many nice things about the local community in Hawai‘i and can’t wait to see the tennis fans at the Hawai‘i Open.”