On Sept. 4, Thursday, The Associated Press reported that Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori would be the first Japanese to advance into the semi-final in US Open since 1918. In fact, the last Japanese to reach the semi-final in any major event was at Wimbledon in 1933. It was exciting to read the report because I thought Japanese were not favored in highly individualistic and confrontational sports that demands sustained mental strength, such as tennis. (Obviously, I had partially accepted the stereotypical idea of Japanese as collectivist. Certainly, every person, even Japanese, lives as an individual. So it was odd to apply such a stereotype on every person that belongs to one group. But, statistically speaking, I think it is true to say that more Japanese are more group-oriented than individualistic.)
On the day of the semi-final match, when I realized that Nishikori’s opponent was the 1st seeded Novak Djokovic my heart sank a little bit. In my mind Djokovic had the status of the tennis-playing machine. Is it possible for Nishikori to win against Djokovic? Isn’t it highly unlikely? Nevertheless, I was determined to watch the match in its entirety.
It was thrilling to watch Djokovic and Nishikori play. As the TV commentators repeatedly reminded us, the playing condition was very difficult: it was hot (almost 100F), humid, and windy. But the two players fought valiantly, putting forth every bit of their energies into the match. Still, it was obvious that varied emotions went through these top-players’ minds. Every little mistakes and little lucky shots affected them mentally and thus their plays. (I know that I am just interpreting their facial expressions and body languages using my narrative paradigms, but I don’t think my interpretations are so off the mark.) Watching sports is very much like watching a drama. Some of them are good while others are not. And I’d say the semi-final match between Djokovic and Nishikori was great. The 10-th seeded Nishikori won against the 1st-seeded Djokovic. Nishikori will advance into the final. History was just made!