SPORTS
09/08/2014 03:38 EDT | Updated 11/08/2014 05:59 EST

Japan abuzz about Kei Nishikori/Marin Cilic U.S. Open final

There’s no doubt Monday’s U.S. Open final between 10th-seededKeiNishikori and No. 14 Marin Cilic isn’t generating the buzz in New York that a NovakDjokovic/Roger Federer showdown, a battle of the top seeds, would.

But it’s quite a different story in Japan, where Nishikori, the first Asian player to reach the U.S. Open men’s final, is all the rage.

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For starters, local satellite provider WOWOW, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the match live in Japan, has been inundated with requests from people interested in a last-minute subscription.

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As well, Nishikori’sUniqlo-brand tennis shirts (pictured at right) have sold out, as have the Wilson rackets he uses. Many Japanese plan to wake up early Tuesday Japan time to see if Nishikori can make history again.

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Goran Ivanisevic is Cilic’s coach and even he understands why this is viewed as an unexpected championship.

Neither Nishikori nor Cilic has played in a major final, let alone won.

Tennis gear

Tennis players have snapped up Wilson Steam 95 rackets, which have been out of stock since late August, according to Windsor Corp., a leading tennis equipment store chain. The rackets (pictured at right) have been popular since Nishikori's victory in the Barcelona Open in April. Now dozens of people are on the waiting list and customers are also buying the shoes, racket strings and grip tape used by the star, Windsor says. His Uniqlo U.S. Open "Dry Ex" shirts have also sold out. They attracted attention because the company also sponsors No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, which made the Nishikori-Djokovic semifinal match a duel between Uniqlo wearers.

Last-minute TV subscriptions

Satellite TV operator WOWOW, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the U.S. Open live in Japan, has been flooded with calls from people trying to get last-minute subscriptions. Company spokesman Yutaka Toyoshima said subscription requests surged from earlier this month and peaked Sunday, with more than 10 times as many as usual. The company is working around the clock to process the subscriptions, he said.

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Big bonus?

In 2012, when Nishikori made the quarter-finals in the Australian Open, Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Uniqlo's parent company, Fast Retailing, reportedly promised Nishikori a large bonus if he wins a Grand Slam. A big question now in Japan is: Is it true? Uniqlo official Keiko Yamamoto declined to comment, saying the contract was confidential.

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Instant noodles

Nishikori mania is even spilling over to an instant noodle brand. Nissin Food Products Co., a sponsor since 2008, indicated there may be a special reward for the star if he wins, but that their contract is confidential. The company has sold a special Kei Nishikori version of instant noodles in the past, and there may be another. Company spokesman Masashi Kanaya said Nishikori's "fresh and healthy image, as well as his powerful style seeking to climb to the top" are a perfect match for the company's identity.

Government hopes

Hopes for a Nishikori victory are also running high in the government. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Monday a win would be "a historic event not only for Japan but for all of Asia, so I really would like to see him make history." Officials say Nishikori could get a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

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