Tennis fans let down after stars back out of Hawaii Open

Tennis fans let down after stars back out of Hawaii Open
Hawaii Open at the Stan Sheriff Center (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two world-famous tennis players expected to draw thousands of people to the Hawaii Open this weekend dropped out at the last minute on Thursday.

It was supposed to a big year for the Hawaii Open.

The first time at the Stan Sheriff Center with top seeds including an Olympian from Japan and a Grand Slam winner from Russia.

No back to back wins for Kei Nishikori after the defending champ of the Hawaii Open pulled out just hours before it began.

"You’re kidding me?!” said Keola Akana.

As the tourney got underway on Thursday, some fans did not even know about Nishikori or Maria Sharapova.

"Oh, so he's not here and she's not here?” Akana said. “Oh, bummer."

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, said she needed more time to prepare for her next tournament.

Nishikori, ranked 13th in the world, tweeted that he wasn’t 100-percent recovered from a recent elbow surgery.

But he appeared at a tennis clinic with kids in Honolulu on Thursday.

"My husband likes Sharapova,” said Salt Lake resident Pamela Menchaca. "Tennis is big in Hawaii so any professional that comes is a big opportunity to come and watch them."

But a bit of a silver lining: in Sharapova’s place was Mililani graduate Alyssa Tobita.

"That was exciting,” said Tobita.

The three-time Hawaii high school state champion got the last-minute call to play.

She lost to Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, but said she'll use this experience as motivation for the future.

“It was a great opportunity and I’m happy and I’m lucky to have gotten this chance," said Tobita. "There’s not very many opportunities to play in front of this home crowd, especially here for tennis.

There was no replacement for Nishikori on Thursday.

The three-day tournament is airing live on the Tennis Channel.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.