© Shanzhen Open

Yoshihito Nishioka captures his maiden tour-level title at the Shenzhen Open on Sunday.

First-Time Winner Spotlight: Yoshihito Nishioka

Japanese captures maiden trophy in Shenzhen

From qualifying, Yoshihito Nishioka won seven matches in eight days to capture his first ATP World Tour crown at the Shenzhen Open. The 23-year-old, who saved two match points in the second round against Denis Shapovalov, is the sixth qualifier to lift an ATP World Tour title this season. Having been sidelined for ten months after tearing his left ACL in March 2017, Nishioka re-enters the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings in the form of his life.

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Nishioka spoke to ATPWorldTour.com after the match:

How does it feel to be holding your first ATP World Tour trophy?
For sure, it is a wonderful feeling. I have been working to get a trophy, so it is a special moment for me. I had a tough time last year and coming back from injury, after ten months [on the sidelines], with a trophy [after nine months] at an ATP World Tour event is pretty quick.

Was it a goal, growing up as a junior, to win an ATP World Tour singles title?
Yes, everybody wants to get an [ATP World Tour] singles title. When I was young I was thinking about getting a trophy at an ATP World Tour event. Still, I believe this is the beginning. I want to get more titles at ATP World Tour 250-level as well as [at the] 500 and [Masters] 1000 events.

Talk about your incredible week, coming from qualifying and beating two seeds along the way?
It was a very long week for me from qualifying. Winning seven matches is not easy. Shapovalov had match points, I thought I had lost already but I got some luck... I believe in myself and try to do my best in every match, that is all. I am always fighting and I never give up when I am losing. That is why I think I won this tournament.

What was your approach and mindset going into your first ATP World Tour final?
I was a little bit nervous, but I just focussed on the opponent. It doesn't matter [if it is] a final or first-round situation. [I tried] not to think like that and just tried to think how I should play against Pierre... If I [tried to play], thinking it was a final that I had to win, it would have been very tight and I wouldn't have been able to play the way I wanted to play. So, I tried to just think about how I should play against my opponent.

Now that you have won your first ATP World Tour title and are back in the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings, what are your goals for the rest of the season?
I am very happy to be back in the Top 100, this was my goal for the year... I'm going to try and play a few more tournaments this season and try to get my ATP Ranking higher [so I can] play more ATP World Tour tournaments next year.

Who were the players you most admired growing up and why?
When I was very young, like seven or eight years old, I loved to watch Rafael Nadal. I wanted to hit my forehand like that, but I don't have enough muscle so I stopped copying his forehand after having pain in my elbow. I loved Verdasco's forehand, I watched him many times on TV, and when I went to the United States when I was 15 years old, Nick Bollettieri told me I need to watch Marcelo Rios as I could learn more from his matches. I didn't know that much about him, but when I watched him he was playing amazing. He always played so fine, it was very interesting watching his tennis and I loved [watching him] play. Right now my hero is Rios, I can still learn many things from him.

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You were at No. 362 in the ATP Rankings just four months ago, could you ever imagine holding an ATP World Tour trophy so soon after your knee injury?
When I was just coming back from the knee injury, I couldn't imagine winning a trophy in an ATP World Tour event. I was working just to get a Top 100 ATP Ranking, but I couldn't imagine [lifting] a trophy. This is pretty surprising for me as well. Before I was injured I was World No. 58, I was playing against top players, so I knew I had the chance to win the tournament.

You are the third different Japanese champion on the ATP World Tour in the past two years, joining Taro Daniel and Yuichi Sugita. What is the state of Japanese tennis at the moment?
When Sugita won I was injured and when Daniel won I was just coming back [from injury]. At the time I was very happy for them, but also I had a little bit of jealousy with them because I was thinking if I didn't get injured and had to have surgery, maybe I would have had a chance to win before. If they are doing well, my own mental belief is pumping up and I need to do more. I go harder in training and practice and I want to get a trophy as well. If they are doing well, I want to do more... I think it is really good for Japanese tennis right now.

Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge for helping you get to this point in your career?
So many people have helped me. My mom, dad, brother, my coaches, the Japanese Federation and sponsors. So many people helped me, but I think the one person is Masaaki Morita... He has the Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund which supports junior players and sends them to the IMG Academy. I went to the IMG Academy with support from his fund and I am very appreciative of him. He is the best guy I ever met and he helped me a lot.

What are your interests and hobbies away from tennis?
I love so many things. I love to play games, the internet, watch YouTube, reading manga and I love to do other sports. I love golf, ping pong and, I can't do it yet, but I want to play soccer. I love to play darts. I have so many hobbies... I want to try new things more.