Gamers: How Video Games Help Nishioka 'Forget About Tennis'

Japanese lefty also reveals the star player who excels in Mario Kart
May 23, 2022
Yoshihito Nishioka enjoys playing video games, with his favourites including Pokemon and Dragon Quest.
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Yoshihito Nishioka enjoys playing video games, with his favourites including Pokemon and Dragon Quest. By ATP Staff

Yoshihito Nishioka will face a tough test on Monday when he plays Novak Djokovic in the first round at Roland Garros. The Japanese lefty has lost his two previous ATP Head2Head matches against the World No. 1, who has not fallen short of the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay since 2009.

Nishioka, who has climbed as high as No. 48 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings has off-court hobbies that include video games.

In this edition of 'Gamers', spoke to Nishioka about his gaming sessions with fellow Japanese players including Kei Nishikori, the rise of e-sports and more.

How much do you enjoy video games?
I play a lot. I’m crazy. I play Nintendo Switch, which is very famous right now. I think also many players are playing Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart. We are playing with Kei [Nishikori] or other Japanese players like Yosuke Watanuki. We are playing together.

I bring the [gaming] laptop [on the road with me] and am using a mouse and a headset and I’m playing games.

Out of all the Japanese players, who is the best at video games?
Kei is pretty nice. Also in Mario Kart, he’s very good.

How important is it for you to have video games because you’re so busy with tennis, to do something fun that’s a little different?
It’s not that great to stay in the house or hotel playing video games four or five hours in a row or something. If you have a chance to go outside, I like to go outside, so I’m not playing every day. But if I have time, like an hour or two hours and have nothing to do, it’s good for spending time.

And also [if] you have friends who are playing the same games, [you] can have conversations with friends… I can forget about tennis between [matches], which I think is very important. If you think only about tennis all the time, like 24 hours, you’re just going to be very tired. You have to forget sometimes.

We have to be fresh every day, because every day we’re playing different players. We have to be thinking a different way every day. We have to forget [past] matches.

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When did you start playing video games, and what are some of the earliest games you remember playing?
I have a brother, we played the same games together. Pokemon we played many times, we battled each other. I think we were five or six years old when we started playing games. In Japan, games [are big].

Do you follow e-sports?
I do. I have some friends who own an e-sports team. I spoke to them a couple times, it sounds pretty interesting. If I have a chance, I want to try to do [e-sports] as well… I’m not that great, but I want to try to be better and I want to try to play in some tournaments or something. 

What do you think about e-sports and the big rise of e-sports athletes?
You’re not moving your body or not going to be crazy-tired like tennis [players]. It’s very different in a way, but I feel it’s [a sport]. I play Super Smash Bros. by Nintendo with a friend who plays professionally. I played a couple times and there is no chance to beat them.

I have sometimes a chance at the beginning, but he says, ‘Okay, I’ll figure out how you’re going to play’, and after playing a couple times there is no chance to beat him… It’s very, very difficult, I feel. That’s how I feel. I have a lot of respect for that for sure.

When you pack for a trip, do you always have to pack your Nintendo Switch? What else do you bring?
Yes, I always bring it. I bring the Switch and a gaming laptop. I need Internet, but if I have good Internet [I am set].

What is your setup like at home?
I started living in Japan when I was 18 years old. From 15 to 18 [I was in the] U.S. I started living just by myself, rented a house. I started living in my house at 18 years old. Now I’ve been living in Japan for eight years, I never bought a TV. So I don’t have a TV, but I have a monitor that is only used for streaming TV, Netflix, but also using it for games as well.

What is your personal top-three list of best games you’ve played?
It’s a lot of games! I spent crazy time playing Pokemon. Dragon Quest, which is a Japanese game. Also Spartan. I think No. 1 is Pokemon. No. 2 is Spartan. Maybe Dragon Quest, not sure for No. 3.

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