Nishikori scoops athlete of 2014 award


Kei Nishikori, who took the tennis world by storm this year, when he reached the finals of the U.S. Open and competed at the season-ending Tour Finals, was named the winner of the grand prize at the Japan Pro Sports Awards on Monday.

The 24-year-old Nishikori was the first Japanese man to reach a Grand Slam singles final and saw his world ranking soar to No. 5. Currently training in the United States, Nishikori was unable to attend, but addressed the event by video.

“This was a fulfilling year,” he said. “I want to do my best so I can return to more Grand Slam finals next year.”

Outstanding Performance Awards went to sumo yokozuna Hakuho, the Pacific League and Japan Series champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks baseball club, and baseball pitcher Chihiro Kaneko.

“I want to do my best to win the grand prize next year,” said the 29-year-old Hakuho, who won his 32nd career grand sumo tournament this year to equal the total of legendary yokozuna Taiho.

Kaneko, the 31-year-old ace of the Orix Buffaloes, led the PL in wins and ERA and won the Sawamura Award as Japan’s premier starting pitcher.

“Through baseball I want to excite the entire nation,” said Kaneko, who is currently a free agent and has yet to settle on a team for next season.

The award for outstanding new performer went to sumo wrestler Ichinojo. The 21-year-old Mongolian achieved promotion to sekiwake following his amazing debut in the elite makuuchi division in September and compiled a winning record in November in the sport’s third-highest rank.