HONG KONG - Veteran Japanese tennis star Kimiko Date-Krumm said Tuesday she had sent losing US Open finalist Kei Nishikori a text message telling him he should be proud of his Grand Slam exploits.
Nishikori defeated three top five players - Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and world number one Novak Djokovic - on his way to becoming the first Asian male to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
But the US Open final proved a match too far and the 24-year-old lost in straight sets to Croatia's Marin Cilic on Monday, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
"I sent him a text message," Date-Krumm told reporters in Hong Kong, where she was competing in a WTA event.
"I said don't be sad because it was a big, big success. Try to go to the next stage." Date-Krumm, 43, said Nishikori had replied saying he'd been nervous before the match.
Nishikori's previous best Grand Slam performance had been in reaching the last eight of the 2012 Australian Open. Not since Date-Krumm reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 has Japanese tennis witnessed anything close to Nishikori's heroics in New York.
"For a Japanese player to get to the final is a big, big success," Date-Krumm said.
"Kei is not a big guy. He has so much talent but it's not easy." Date-Krumm was Asia's biggest tennis star during the 1990s. She reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 1994 and the last four of the French Open in 1995 before her Wimbledon run the following year.
China's Li Na, Asia's most successful-ever player, won the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open this year.
"In women's tennis 20 years ago no one thought we (Asians) could get to a final and men's tennis is even more difficult.
"Maybe in the future Kei can go on and win one just like Li Na," Date-Krumm added.
The evergreen Japanese player was speaking after defeating Swede Johanna Larsson 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Tuesday.