Shortly after Japan was unfortunately struck with the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, IMG Academy Bollettieri tennis program Tennis-alum Kei Nishikori wasted little time initializing the relief effort for his home country. Five weeks later, Nishikori remains at the forefront of professional tennis players aiming to raise money, and hope, for those affected by the disaster.
Tennis.com recently featured Nishikori's efforts in an article on their website:
Kei's Cause: Auction raises money for Red Cross
Tennis players are known for their quick reactions, and so it was fitting that many of them responded to the recent disasters in Haiti and New Zealandâwith the impromptu âHit for Haitiâ and âRally for Reliefâ fundraisersâin such short order.
It came as little surprise, then, that soon after an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan this March, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and other soccer-savvy players arranged a benefit match with the North American Soccer League's Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The game and a dinner raised $100,000, and Djokovic has said that additional matches are being planned.
Those games won't be the only tennis-related aid efforts taking place during the next few months. Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori has been spearheading an online auctionâchock full of tennis goodies donated from fellow pros and memorabilia specialist Ace Authenticâwith proceeds going to the Red Cross. âWe just kept thinking about something that we could do,â Nishikori said. âWe set up the partnership with the Red Cross right away and brought in a significant amount. But I wanted to do more and that is how the idea of the auction came about.â
The auction, located at www.tennisaceauctions.com, offers a wide spectrum of tennis-themed items. A signed Ayumi Morita postcard ended at $25, while a match-used Nadal shirt from this year's Australian Open is currently at $8,750âwith a few days left on the block. Other unique items include the Japanese flag Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka brought out to court at Indian Wells (signed by both), a one-hour tennis lesson with Brad Gilbert and a life-size promotional poster of Roger Federer, autographed by the 16-time Grand Slam champ. âI believe by now all the Top 10 players have now donated items, which is very cool,â Nishikori said. âI am very thankful for all their help.â
Also up for bidding are non-tennis items, including a cruise vacation, a wine-tasting trip and shopping sprees. For those on a smaller budget, signed memorabilia from Joe Montana, Anthony Kim and many other athletes are currently available for under $100. âWe're going to constantly be getting additional items and experiences all the way through Wimbledon,â says John Reichel of Ace Authentic. âWe start the pricing off a lot lower than what the value is; we just want to raise money.â
So far, the auction has done just that. Reichel couldn't give an estimate on how much money has already been raised, but acknowledged thatâthe items donated from the players and companies have been great.â And there may be additional fundraising ventures on the way. âWe continue to think about ideas,â Nishikori said. âThe Japan Open is at the end of the year and we will obviously think of things around that event. For now, we would like to keep raising money through the auction site.â
It remains to be seen what ideas become reality, but we know one thing for sure: Someoneâin all likelihood a big Nishikori fanâwill be trading forehands and backhands with the Japanese star in Tokyo. Another hitting session with Nishikori, in Bradenton, Fla., was put up for auction on March 31, but Florida is quite a distance for someone from Japan to cover in order to hit with their hero. âThen we got a request from a customer who said, âWhy don't you do one in Japan?',â Reichel said. âSo we went back to Kei and he said, âYeah, I'll do one at the Japan Open.'â
A week later, another item was created, helping outmore than just one person