6 Things To Know About Akira Santillan, The Japanese #NextGenATP Player
1. Akira Santillan is going for his first tour-level win on Monday evening at the Delray Beach Open.
The 19-year-old right-hander has played in two other ATP World Tour main draws – 2016 Shenzhen Open and the 2016 Generali Open in Kitzbuhel. Santillan received wild cards into both main draws and lost his openers. This is the first time he's qualified for an ATP World Tour main draw.
“Qualifying is a better feeling because you've earned yourself into the main draw... Wild card, you've earned it into the main draw because somebody is trusting you, somebody is giving you the chance to play in the main draw because they believe in you,” Santillan told ATPWorldTour.com. “Two different feelings but for me qualifying obviously feels better.”
2. He has mixed heritage.
His father, Dean Santillan, is from South Africa. His mother, Harumi, is Japanese. But the family moved to Gold Coast, Australia, for tennis when Akira Santillan was about 7 years old. He lived in Australia until he was about 18. He currently plays under the Japanese flag.
“I would say I'm from Australia but I would say that I'm half Japanese,” Akira Santillan said.
3. Tennis runs in the family.
His father played tennis and coached him from the age of 5 to 14. Tennis was everywhere in their house, including posters of Andy Roddick, Xavier Malisse, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer. “All the old guys,” said the 19 year old. “It's not surprising why I got into tennis.”
4. He's a six-time titlist.
Santillan has won six ITF Futures titles. The 2015 season was his first full year of playing professional tennis, and he transitioned to the ATP Challenger Tour last July. He's still searching for his first ATP Challenger Tour Title.
5. Don't ask him about his weakness.
“My serve is one of my strengths, and my forehand and my speed. I get to a lot of balls. Sometimes I catch them off guard... Weakness? I don't know. I don't really have a weakness. I'd prefer not to say,” he said and then laughed.
6. Santillan knows his first-round opponent well.
It will be a battle of #NextGenATP players when Santillan meets fellow #NextGenATP player Taylor Fritz on Monday during the final match on Stadium Court. The two have known each other since juniors. They've never played as professionals, but Santillan recalls playing him once years ago.
“I played him once in Belgium I think. He killed me. He plays good. Big serve. Big forehand. Goes for shots. It will be interesting,” Santillan said. “I feel confident. Obviously it's his home. It's in America and the crowd will be behind him but we'll see what happens.”