Skip to main content

A Tribute to Famous Japanese Tennis Player Ai Sugiyama

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

Ai Sugiyama is a Former Tennis Player Turned Businesswoman

Ai Sugiyama is a former tennis player that may not be remembered by many as one of the most famous but she is famous nonetheless. This article is a tribute to her. It will not be a full biography about her but instead the article will be a look at why she is important to the world. Why are we discussing about Ai Sugiyama who has retired from the pro tennis scene since 2009? Why is she important to sports fans? Ai Sugiyama is not just a former tennis player but she is also a business owner. Ai opened a cafe a flower shop and a renewal sports shop in a city called Chigasaki in 1998.

Ai Sugiyama At the 2009 Toray Pan Pacific Open in 2009


Ai Sugiyama A Mixed Doubles Champion At the US Open

She also should be given credit and praise for her mixed doubles win at the 1999 US Open with Mahesh Bhupathi, a tennis player from India. This victory is considered one of the most memorable victories in Sugiyama’s career. That year she won the championship in mixed doubles. That is a really solid way for anyone to end the Grand Slam Season.

Ai Sugiyama: Her Early Career Years

Sugiyama actually made her professional debut in 1992 after having failed in qualifying rounds twice in 1991. 1992 was the year that I really started watching tennis particularly the Grand Slam Events. It would be in 1993 that Sugiyama would be in the main draw as a qualifier for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Her stay in the tournament would not be very long. She would be defeated in the first round. In 1994, Sugiyama would be ranked in the Top 100 players in the world. She would then be ranked inside the Top 50 starting in 1995. 1995 was also the year that she took part in all four major Grand Slams including Roland Garros (another name for the French Open). She would reach the 4th round at the French Open that year. In 1996, she would reach the 4th round at Wimbledon (now known as the Round of 16). If you get that far, you are a pretty good player.

Ai Sugiyama: Top 20 Ranking and #1 ranking in Doubles (1997-2001)

In 1997, Sugiyama’s ranking improved even more as she was ranked in the Top 20. She would also win her first ever singles match title at the Japan Open. In 2000, Sugiyama would reach the quarterfinal round in the Australian Open but she would lose to Jennifer Capriati. 2001 was a year that got off to a solid start for Sugiyama. She would become the first Japanese tennis player ever to be ranked #1 in doubles. In 2004, Sugiyama would really reach her peak in terms of world ranking. She would rank as high as #8 in the world.

Ai Sugiyama Seen Here at the 2009 US Open

Scroll to Continue

Ai Sugiyama at the 2006 Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Ai Sugiyama Reaches Her Finest Moment But Then Reveals Her Loss of Motivation

Sugiyama says that her finest moment as an athlete came in 2003 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She had gotten a huge win over Lindsay Davenport in the second round of that tournament. Davenport was an elite tennis player in the late 1990’s. One day in 2003 at that tournament, Sugiyama would have to play 4 matches in one day due to scheduling problems. She would rally in dramatic fashion, coming back from a match point against Alexandra Stevenson. She would then defeat her doubles partner Kim Clijsters in the final after coming back from a set down to do so. In the 2003 Tour Championships, Sugiyama would beat Justine Henin of Belgium and that victory would take her into the Top 10. However, Sugiyama also revealed that after she was 25, she felt like she had hit the wall. Although she was doing well in doubles, she described her singles play as terrible. She told her mother that she wanted to quit. Good thing that she did not because if she had quit, she would not have experienced that magical moment in 2003 in Scottsdale. When you are doing that well, there’s no sense to quit.

Some Further Perspective On Ai Sugiyama's Success

How does Sugiyama’s success compare to other Japanese athletes? She did get to #8 in the world in 2004 which is very high and she should be proud of that. She had her special moment just like soccer forward Karina Maruyama had her defining moment when she scored the game winning goal against Germany. And of course, Miwa Asao made her mark in beach volleyball by being the most beautiful and one of the most talented in her sport.

Ai Sugiyama 's Hobbies

Sugiyama would be coached by her mother Fusako during her career. She trains at Palm International Tennis Academy where she is the owner. Her hobbies are playing golf, reading, and relaxing in hot springs.

Ai Sugiyama Would End Up Not Making a Professional Tennis Comeback

In 2009, Sugiyama revealed that fans should not expect her to return to playing tennis as she is enjoying her life away from the court. Sugiyama also revealed that she was both shocked and surprised that her country woman Kimiko Date-Krumm retired so early. The great news for tennis fans is that Kimiko Date is back and trying to make another comeback after her knee recovers. Sugiyama also has the distinction of having made a “record 62 consecutive Grand Slam appearances,” (Fielding 2009). Her last Grand Slam appearance was at the US Open in 2009 where she lost in the first round. That’s not the way any tennis player would want to end their career. Congratulations to Ai Sugiyama for her training, dedication, and her willingness to want to win.


Fielding, Gus. 2009. Japan Times. December 8. Accessed January 24, 2017.

© 2017 Ara Vahanian

Related Articles