WIMBLEDON, England — Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese man in 17 years to reach the third round of Wimbledon on Thursday, and quickly gave credit to the last player from his country to advance that far.
Nishikori beat Florent Serra of France 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 and will next play Juan Martin del Potro, who beat another Japanese player in Go Soeda.
The last Japanese man to reach the last 32 at Wimbledon was Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995. Nishikori said he trained with Matsuoka as a kid and still gets advice from the former Japanese No. 1. Matsuoka sent him an email shortly after Thursday’s match, Nishikori said.
“He’s always helping me,” he said. “When I was in Japan, I think I was 11, 12 ... a couple times a year I went and trained with him. I think that helps me a lot. ... I always looked up to him when I was young. He was the only star in Japan, and the camp that he’s doing, it’s very helpful.”
Nishikori won his only ATP Tour title in 2008 in Delray Beach, but made two finals last year, including in Basel where he lost to Roger Federer.
The 19th-seeded Nishikori hit 45 winners to break Serra eight times and wrap up the win in 1 hour, 45 minutes on Court 17. However, Soeda then lost 6-2, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to Del Potro as Japan missed out on having two players in the third round for the first time since 1937.
Nishikori can avenge that result on Saturday, as he’s set to play Del Potro next.
“I will play with all the Japanese players,” Del Potro said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a difficult match. I know Kei since juniors. He has improved his game a lot. He had a fantastic year in 2011, and this season he’s doing well. On grass, he’s dangerous.”