Tokyo: Tennis fans emerged into Japan's early morning sunshine dejected but proud after Kei Nishikori's bid to become the first Asian man to win a Grand Slam singles title came to a shuddering halt in New York.

Fans in Tokyo react to Kei Nishikori's loss. Pic/Getty Images
Fans in Tokyo react to Kei Nishikori's loss. Pic/Getty Images 

Thousands of fans across the country had woken at the crack of dawn to watch their hero do battle in a contest between little and large.

"Blimey, look at the size of him!" joked dental nurse Kayoko Hashimoto in a Tokyo sports bar as the players shook hands before the match. "Nishikori looks like a midget."

An hour later with the 1.98 metre (6ft 6in) tall Cilic dominating his 1.78m (5ft 10in) opponent, the 27-year-old was staring forlornly into her beer glass with more than 80 other hardcore fans who had seen their hopes shattered.

"I'm so proud of Nishikori, even if he lost," said hairstylist Hotaru Shoda, 24. "He did a fantastic job. All Japanese people should be proud of him."

Hometown proud of Kei
Her sentiments were echoed by natives of Nishikori's home town of Matsue in the rural province of Shimane, where more than 900 cheering fans packed a convention hall to watch the match on a big screen, with hundreds more unable to get in.

"There was a lot of groaning. Nishikori is still the first Japanese man to reach a Grand Slam final, so for the people of Matsue we are very, very proud," city official Kazufumi Morie told AFP by telephone.