The Australian Open is, as we all know, the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific so it hardly comes as a surprise to see a large contingent of Japanese fans packed into the show courts. But they are not like the other fans from around the world.
Take the Greeks, for instance – you hear them before you see them as they sing and chant and generally make loads of noise watching Stefanos Tsitsipas or Maria Sakkari. It is the same with the Serbs when they are watching Djokovic: where is Novak playing? Just follow the singing and you will find him.
But the Japanese – who are possibly the politest people on the planet – sit in nervous silence through every point and only gasp and clap at the appropriate moment when the ball has gone dead. This is, according to my Japanese colleague, is because everyone has grown up watching the television coverage of Wimbledon on their national broadcaster, NHK. The tradition, the etiquette and the deafening Centre Court silence is what they know as the norm and so that is how they behave when they come to Melbourne.
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That is not to say they are not a colourful bunch. Armed with flags and fans, banners and posters, they make their allegiance known. Their faces painted with the Japanese flag and their bandanas decorated with the rising sun, they look so excited that they might burst. Admittedly, the face painted fan with a Japanese flag and a padded hat in the shape of a frog caused a little confusion (as did the bloke in the chicken hat) but there was no doubting their country of origin or who they had cone to support.
And when Nishikori let slip a two set lead against Karlovic and then went 0-40 down in the heart of the fifth, these devoted followers could barely breathe. By the time he had lost his lead in the match tiebreak, they had almost gone blue in the face. But then, after three hours and 48 minutes when Nishikori finally claimed his place in the third round, they all exhaled as one and all was well with their world.
Now, if their nerves can take it, they get to do it all over again on Saturday.