© Hiroshi Sato

Qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama advances to his first Tokyo quarter-final on Wednesday with victory over Radu Albot.

Uchiyama Strikes Again In Tokyo!

Opelka next for Japanese player

In a flash on Wednesday afternoon, Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama trailed Moldovan Radu Albot 0-3 and faced a break point to go down two breaks. But Uchiyama struck a forehand winner and eventually held. Although he did not win the first set, the 27-year-old used that moment to gain a foothold in the match, and that would pay dividends.

Uchiyama rallied for a 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 victory at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships against the World No. 45 after two hours and 25 minutes, advancing to the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event for the first time.

“It was amazing,” Uchiyama said. “[It is my] first time in the quarter-final of an ATP 500 and especially in my home country, it’s really special.”

Watch Live

The World No. 136 — who is at his career-high ATP Ranking — had only won one main draw match in Tokyo before arriving here last week for qualifying. But he was undeterred when the gritty Albot jumped out to an early lead.

“I was thinking too much about his defence and his running. He was really quick on the baseline, so I was thinking too much to go for it and I made a few mistakes at the beginning,” Uchiyama said. “After 3-0, I was focussing more on myself, playing like the usual.”

Uchiyama, who made his first tour-level quarter-final this January in Brisbane, saved five of the seven break points he faced and won 62 per cent of his second-serve return points en route to victory. And with the crowd fully behind him, he served out the match at the first time of asking.

“I was really tired at the end of the match. That’s why I wasn’t thinking too much about the win, I was just focussing on every single point,” Uchiyama said. “I think that was a good way to play the last game.”

Uchiyama will play American Reilly Opelka for a spot in his first ATP Tour semi-final. Opelka struck 19 aces in a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) triumph against French veteran Gilles Simon.

“Every single match is a big challenge for me, so I just have to focus on every single match,” Uchiyama said. “I think everyone is missing Kei, but it’s good that Japanese guys are winning matches here. I’m happy to make them happy.”

Did You Know?
Uchiyama was one of four Japanese players to reach the second round in Tokyo this year. This was the first time that happened since 2003.

You May Also Like: Japanese Joy: Home Hopes Make History In Tokyo

More stories like this in: