Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 8th 2014 Contents A57
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NEW YORK---Tennis great Martina
Navratilova proposed to her girlfriend
on the big screen of Arthur Ashe Sta-
dium between the U.S. Open men's
semifinals on Saturday.
Navratilova popped the question to
Julia Lemigova in the Tennis Channel
suite, drawing a loud cheer from the
"I was very nervous," Navratilova
said later. "It came off. She said yes. It
was kind of an out-of-body experience.
You've seen people propose at sporting
events before, in movies, in real life.
Here it was happening to me. It was
like I was watching myself do it."
The 57-year-old Navratilova won
18 Grand Slam singles titles, a
mark she shares with Chris Evert. Ser-
ena Williams will try to match it in
Sunday's women's final.
Navratilova said somebody sug-
gested she propose during a
changeover in the first match between
Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic, but
she didn't want to disturb the players
in any way.
The only problem was that
Navratilova was later scheduled to play
a Champions doubles match with Jana
Novotna against Tracy Austin and Gigi
Fernandez. She tried unsuccessfully to
get the start postponed without telling
anybody why, so she was fretting that
the Nishikori-Djokovic match would go
five sets. Fortunately, it ended in four.
Navratilova proposes on big screen at US Open
NEW YORK---Kei Nishikori s journey
to the U.S. Open final began a decade
ago, when he was spotted as a teen at
a tryout in Japan and invited to move
to Florida to attend a tennis academy.
Nishikori was among the first ben-
eficiaries of a project to improve Japan-
ese tennis funded by former Sony exec-
utive Masaaki Morita.
"Kei was just 14, and he didn t speak
a word of English," said Nick Bollettieri,
a member of the International Tennis
Hall of Fame who coached players such
as Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim
Courier and Monica Seles. "He was
gifted. Great speed. Great eyes."
As Nishikori worked his way up the
world rankings after turning professional
in 2007, he became so well-known back
home that it seemed less distracting to
stay in Florida. On the rare occasions
he plays in Japan, tournaments sell out
Now that he s the first man from
Asia to make it to the final of a Grand
Slam singles tournament, his profile ---
and that of his sport --- figures to grow
exponentially in his home country. Even
though he hasn t lived there for years,
the nation is watching as he heads into
Monday s final against Marin Cilic.
"Even from 17, 18, from when he won
his first title, it s been sometimes even
a bit over-the-top, maybe all a bit too
early," said Nishikori s agent, Olivier
"They are so intrigued by their heroes
that they want to know everything,"
Van Lindonk said. "I ve heard so many
questions about: When did he eat?
When did he go to bed?"
Nishikori s surprising 6-4, 1-6, 7-6
(4), 6-3 victory over No. 1-ranked and
seven-time major champion Novak
Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals
began at about 1 a.m. Sunday in Japan,
but people across the country stayed
awake to keep track.
When the match ended, Nishikori
told the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium
during an on-court interview: "I hope
it s big news in Japan. ... I feel the sup-
port from Japan. ... It s 4 o clock in the
morning, but I hope a lot of people
They did. As soon as he checked his
phone, Nishikori found 20 messages
from folks in Japan, despite the hour.
Hundreds of fans celebrated after fol-
lowing along on television at a hotel in
Nishikori s hometown of Matsue, a
sleepy town with a population of less
It was the lead story on Sunday
morning TV news programs, and the
mass circulation Asahi Shimbun issued
a special online edition touting Nishiko-
ri s success.
"This is easily the biggest news in
the history of Japanese tennis," said Jun
Kamiwazumi, a former member of
Japan s Davis Cup team who reached
the third round at the 1973 U.S. Open.
"This will have a huge impact on the
sport here, and I expect many young
children will be inspired to emulate
Others such as Bollettieri and
Djokovic echoed that opinion.
"This is definitely huge for Japan. It s
a big country, over 100 million people.
This can definitely be a great encour-
agement for tennis in that country," said
Djokovic, who is from Serbia. "He s
been around for the last couple of years.
He s been making a lot of success. But
playing finals of a Grand Slam and now
fighting for a title is definitely something
It also will
even more money
than the $10 million
in endorsements he
reportedly already earns from
sponsors such as clothing com-
pany Uniqlo, food company
Nissin, and sports equip-
ment company Wilson.
Nishikori, the first
man from Japan to be
ranked in the ATP s top
10, has existing con-
tracts that include
escalator clauses pro-
viding extra money
for certain accom-
plishments, such as
reaching a Grand Slam final.
It adds up to a far bigger take than
his on-court prize money, which was
less than $2 million this season
entering the U.S. Open.
But what matters
more to the 24-year-
old Nishikori, by the
sound of it, is the
impact he can have
in his native coun-
"I hope more kids
start playing tennis,"
he said. "U.S. has a
lot of respect for the
sports, but not as
much in Japan. I hope
I can make a little bit
Given the attention Nishikori is get-
ting, a championship in New York
would seem to be certain to reverberate
"He s a hero there. He s
been a hero there for a
while. Ever since he hit
the top 20, it s been
crazy. But we re get-
ting to another level
now," said Van Lin-
donk, the agent.
"You become very
popular when you
....to the US Open final
Kei Nishikori, of Japan,
reacts after defeating
Novak Djokovic, of Serbia,
during the semifinals of the
2014 U.S. Open tennis
tournament, Saturday in
New York. AP PHOTO
T&T midfielder KEVIN
MOLINO scored his
league record 20th
goal of the season for
Orlando in the club's
1-0 USL Pro win over
Richmond Knickers on
"I know the
and can't wait
national team coach
on the recent draw
for the Concacaf
T&T will face USA,
Guatemala and Haiti.
Call: 623 8870-9
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