Nishioka's Night: 'Yoshi' Thrills Tokyo Fans With Big Win
First win in four attempts at the Ariake
Colosseum in Ariake Tennis Park could have been named Nishioka World Monday evening.
That's because the Tokyo crowd urged Japanese No. 2 Yoshihito Nishioka to a 7-5, 6-3 victory against Portugal's Joao Sousa in the first round of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships. It marks Nishioka's first victory here on his fourth attempt.
“This is my first win in this event, so I’m very happy for this,” Nishioka said. “Not many big tournaments have [a crowd like] here. This is the biggest tournament in Japan, so I’m very happy to play good tennis for many fans. I feel very good.”
Sousa broke at 4-4 in the opener to earn a chance to serve for the first set. But Nishioka maintained his focus, claiming his first two breaks of the match to take the set and with it, the momentum.
“The many people helped me, they gave me the power. That’s a very big reason for me playing my best tennis today,” Nishioka said. “I had a little bit of pressure on me, but many people cheered for me, so I think the home crowd was very special for a moment like this.”
Nishioka will next play fifth seed Lucas Pouille, who ousted Poland's Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-3 to reach the second round of the ATP 500 tournament on his Tokyo debut. Pouille had trailed Hurkacz 0-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but he got his revenge to break even with a 19-19 record on the season.
Pouille has shown flashes of strong form on hard courts throughout the year, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the Moselle Open, as well as the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open.
The 25-year-old used his dominant first serve to power his way to a one-hour, 14-minute victory, winning 83 per cent of his first-serve points in the match. He also did well to work his way into Hurkacz’s service games, earning eight break points across the two sets.
Did You Know?
Pouille has captured one of his five ATP Tour titles at the ATP 500-level. In 2017, the Frenchman triumphed at the Erste Bank Open.