Another Day, Another Comeback For Nishioka In Delray Beach
Yoshihito Nishioka appeared to be in deep trouble when he went back to the locker room for a second rain delay early on in his Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com semi-final. But the Japanese returned to Stadium Court with a renewed energy, rallying to beat 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor Ugo Humbert 1-6, 6-4, 6-0 on Saturday afternoon.
"[I was] a little bit frustrated after the first set. But after the rain came, my mind reset and I just restarted again," Nishioka said. "The rain coming was pretty lucky for me, maybe. It helped."
Nishioka is the first Japanese player to reach the final at this ATP 250 since Kei Nishikori won the title in 2008. The lefty will play a big server — second seed Milos Raonic or fourth seed Reilly Opelka — for the trophy on Sunday. The Raonic-Opelka semi-final was pushed to Sunday at 10:30am local time due to rain.
The 24-year-old, who captured his maiden ATP Tour title in his first final at 2018 Shenzhen, did not reach a championship match between that victory and this week. But the speedy lefty showed why he is capable of giving plenty of players fits on Saturday, shrinking the court with his dogged defence.
Nishioka won 27 of 37 points in the deciding set to defeat the in-form Frenchman, who triumphed in Auckland in January. Early on, Humbert was in control of the points, playing controlled offence that saw him make few errors. But after the rain, Nishioka was able to break down Humbert's game and put more pressure on him.
"After the first set I just figured out how to play against him and just kept trying to do it and then it worked," Nishioka said. "If I lose the first set it's okay, I just figure out how he's going to play, how I have to play against him and then from the second set I say, 'Okay, let's do it this way.'"
Nishioka saved six of the eight break points he faced, including two in the first game of the second set. Although he didn’t strike any aces, Nishioka won 74 per cent of his first-serve points to advance after one hour and 42 minutes.
The Japanese No. 2 is guaranteed to move past his previous career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 58 on Monday. He reached that spot on 20 March 2017, and four days later tore his left ACL during a match in Miami. Now Nishioka is breaking new ground, and he is projected to crack the Top 50 for the first time.
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Nishioka also lost the first set in his quarter-final against Brandon Nakashima and his first-rounder against Noah Rubin. He rallied to beat Nakashima 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 and Rubin 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.