Kei Nishikori may soon no longer be the only Japanese in the upper ranks of pro tennis.
Yoshihito Nishioka, coming off injury this year, as a qualifier won the Shenzhen Open on Sunday, in the final beating Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
“I believe this is the beginning,” said Nishioka. “[Now I will] try to win 500 and 1000 [level] events…This is a very happy [moment] and I believe I can win more.”
Nishioka tore his left ACL 18 months ago at the 2017 Miami Open.
He saved two match points against Denis Shapovalov in the second round. Leading 7-5, 2-0 in the final he dropped seven straight games before recovering.
“I don’t know what was going on [at 7-5, 2-0],” Nishioka said. “Maybe I was tight for the win, I am not sure, but sure I was a little bit nervous because I almost got to the trophy…After I lost the second set I changed my mentality — to fight.”
The 27-year-old Herbert fell to 0-2 in career finals.
“Really disappointed not to lift the trophy, but for sure it has been a great week,” said Herbert. “I played five good matches and I came out four times with a win. It has been a great effort, my level was quite high so I am quite happy with that…it is a really positive week.”
The 23-year-old, now injury-free, in the trophy ceremony reminded fans his name is not Kei Nishikori, and is ready to set his own path.
“To get here, it was seven matches. It is not easy,” said Nishioka. “I am very tired right now but my strength is my mentality, my stamina and never giving up. Those are my weapons.”
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