Yoshihito Nishioka, the eighth seed at the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, is looking forward to competing in China for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese player, who reached a career-high ranking of 24 in June, is excited to play in front of his Asian fans and pursue his third ATP Tour title this week.
Nishioka, who is 5’7" tall, is renowned for his strategic acumen and nimbleness on the court. He does not depend on power, but rather on his skill to outsmart his opponents and dictate the rallies by varying the speed and direction of the ball.
The tennis star said, “I don’t play with power, so I have to plan how to play my points and always have to make big strategies as to how to beat my opponents before I go on to the court.”
His careful preparation paid off in the first half of the season, as he made it to the second week of the Australian Open and the French Open for the first time in his career. He also reached a Top 20 Pepperstone ATP Ranking milestone midway through the year.
Nonetheless, as Nishioka climbed the rankings, he found himself burdened by higher expectations he had set for himself, causing a dip in his performance following Roland Garros.
Yoshihito candidly confessed, saying, "The pressure mounted as I needed to maintain my seeding and ranking. Overthinking became a hindrance, and I began to feel the weight of that pressure."
The Japanese player only managed one victory in six following tournaments, which was at the Cincinnati ATP Masters 1000. He said he had to adjust his mindset and stop worrying too much about his ranking.
Yoshihito Nishioka believes that he can recover his form in China, where he has enjoyed some of his best results on the ATP Tour. He claimed his first ATP Tour title in Shenzhen in 2018 and his second title in Seoul last year, beating then-World No. 2 Casper Ruud on his way to the trophy.
Nishioka expressed his delight to witness high-level tennis resume in China after a break due to the pandemic. He said, "It is always good to come back for the Asian Swing, and it is the first time the ATP Tour events are back in China after COVID, so I really am very excited to be able to play here."
Yoshihito Nishioka triumphs and receives a cold handshake in the third round of the Australian Open 2023.
In addition, he has a challenging first-round match against French player Terence Atmane, who recently won an ATP Tour Challenger title in Guangzhou. However, Nishioka is feeling at ease on the hard courts at the Hengqin International Tennis Center, which is the venue for the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships.
As he prepares to showcase his finesse and creativity on the court once again, Nishioka hopes to make a strong comeback and continue his ascent in the world of professional tennis.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on tennis in China, as it caused many tournaments to be canceled and the WTA events in the country to be suspended. The pandemic also triggered a surge in participation and racket sales worldwide, as more people chose the sport as a safe and healthy activity during the lockdowns.
The WTA returned to China in 2023 after a four-year hiatus, hosting seven tournaments in the next six weeks as part of the tour’s Asian swing. The WTA said it had received assurances from Chinese authorities that Peng Shuai, who alleged sexual assault by a former Chinese party leader, was safe and free to travel. The ATP, however, scrapped four events in China for a third year, as the country maintained its strict COVID-19 restrictions.