Tennis: Nishikori inspires Japanese French Open record

PARIS (AFP) - Japan smashed a record which had stood for almost half a century at the French Open on Sunday by seeing five men make the first round draw.

Not since 1967 has Japan enjoyed such relative riches in Paris with world number five Kei Nishikori leading the way.

However, the stardust of Nishikori wasn't immediately rubbing off on his compatriots as the five quickly became four when veteran Go Soeda was defeated 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 by German 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the opening round.

"I think it's great for Asia, not only Japan," said 30-year-old Soeda of Japan's achievement.

"Five players in the main draw so I think we can be confident. But we have to win the first match or second match.

"If I play main draw, I have to win main draw. Nishikori can win this tournament. But other players, we should win the first round," added Soeda who has never won a main draw match in Paris.

Nishikori, the US Open runner-up last year, made sure of at least one Japanese man in the next round with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 win over France's Paul-Henri Mathieu.

He next faces either Australia's Marinko Matosevic or Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil for a place in the last 32.

Japan's other players in the first round are qualifiers Taro Daniel and Yoshito Nishioka who play Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych respectively.

Tatsuma Ito will take on Italy's Fabio Fognini.

"It's great to see many Japanese players here, and I think men's tennis has got much better right now in Japan," said Nishikori.

"Taro and Yoshi are playing great tennis. They qualified for the US Open, too. Now, they qualified here so it's great to see for Japan tennis."