Nishioka Sinks Shapo For Seoul Crown
Yoshihito Nishioka produced a stunning counter-punching display against Denis Shapovalov at the Eugene Korea Open Tennis Championships on Sunday to claim his second ATP Tour title in style at the ATP 250 event in Seoul.
The 26-year-old Japanese downed the fourth seed 6-4, 7-6(5) with a performance full of blistering shotmaking from deep. Despite Shapovalov finding improved rhythm behind his serve and powerful forehand as the match wore on, Nishioka’s movement and stoic defence proved key as he rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the second set before staying solid in the tie-break to secure a one-hour, 55-minute victory.
“This week was amazing for me," said Nishioka after the match. "I played very well on the court, my mentality and attitude. I just focused on the play, which was very important I think. A couple of matches it was very close, but I played very well, tried to figure out how to beat the opponent, and every match I fought. I needed to play like this in all the matches [so that] I had a chance to beat each of the players.”
A pivotal hold from 0/40 in the seventh game of the match was an early demonstration of the sort of resilience that had taken Nishioka past Daniel Evans and Casper Ruud en route to the final in Seoul. The Japanese appeared to garner confidence from that recovery as his lightning movement around the court made it difficult for Shapovalov to hit through him. After Nishioka carved out his first set point at 5-4, 30/40, the Canadian netted a relatively straightforward forehand volley for Nishioka to move ahead.
Shapovalov responded well to that disappointment, firing a series of blazing forehand winners to lead 3-1 in the second, but Nishioka once again used his defensive abilities to engineer an impressive comeback and force a tie-break. The unseeded Japanese was the more solid player from then on, ultimately sealing victory despite only hitting 14 winners to Shapovalov’s 38.
“I think my returning was great today," said Nishioka, who now leads Shapovalov 2-0 in the pair's ATP Head2Head series. "I know he has a big serve and a big forehand, but I didn’t need to worry about that if it was too good. I just focused on playing many balls and putting pressure on him, and if I had chances to just go for it. But first of all, just make a lot of balls, and hit a lot to his backhand, and try to move him.”
Nishioka lifted his maiden ATP Tour title in Shenzhen in 2018 and was appearing in his second championship match of 2022 at that level after reaching the Washington final in August, a run that included wins against Alex de Minaur, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev. His triumph in Seoul lifts the 26-year-old 15 spots to No. 41 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“First and foremost, congrats to Yoshi. I mean you’re playing incredible this year. You’re super annoying to play,” joked Shapovalov when addressing Nishioka at the trophy presentation ceremony. “it was super frustrating for me, I tried to find a way and I think I did everything I could, so congrats, and to your coach as well, you guys deserve it.”