Japan is a country in search of some cheerful news right now.
Earlier this week, the western part of the island nation was slammed by Typhoon Jebi, which left 11 dead and parts of the country flooded. That was followed, days later, by a magnitude-6.7 earthquake that rattled the country.
In the baseball-crazed nation, there was still more distressing news when it was announced that superstar Shohei Ohtani, who plays for the Los Angeles Angels, will need major elbow surgery.
So the Japanese are turning their attention nearly 7,000 miles away, to the US Open and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center courts, to find some uplifting news.
“It’s good news to encourage the Japanese people right now,” said journalist Hidehiro Akiyama, one of more than a dozen writers and broadcasters from Japan covering the tournament.
“There is no stopping the Japanese players,” was the headline in the Nikkan Gendai tabloid.
Osaka, 20, who will play last year’s Open runner-up, American Madison Keys, in one of the two women’s semifinals scheduled for Thursday night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, is the first Japanese woman semifinalist since Kimiko Date in 1996, in Wimbledon.
“Osaka was in full throttle from the start,” declared the Nikkan Sports, another daily newspaper. “She has taken a step into unchartered territory for Japanese women in New York.”
Photos: Best of Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open
Nishikori, 28, is back in the semifinals for the first time since 2016 and for the third time in his career, after losing in the 2014 Open final. In that match, Nishikori lost to Marin Cilic. On Wednesday, he defeated Cilic in five grueling sets.
“Nishikori Gets His Revenge” blared the Sports Nippon headline.
Nishikori will play two-time US Open champion and reigning Wimbledon title holder, Novak Djokovic on Friday.
“Awesome! Nishikori-san and Naomi Osaka get into the semifinals. Next match vs Djokovic. Please win!” wrote one Twitter account.
Despite the 13-hour time difference, both matches will be broadcast live on Wowow pay television.
“I hope people watching us today,“ said Nishikori, who is treated like a rock star back home. “It's great news we both in the semis.”
Osaka’s unexpected run to the semifinals has also been good news to investors. Share prices of Osaka’s racquet producer, Yonex, have soared more than 10 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.