Nishioka beats Herbert to seal maiden ATP crown
Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan poses with the trophy after winning the men's singles final against Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France at the ATP Shenzhen Open.
Shenzhen - Both players had yet to claim a ATP Tour singles title
Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka broke through for his maiden ATP singles title Sunday, outlasting seasoned Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in a gruelling final of the Shenzhen Open.
"This is the dream for tennis players," said Nishioka afterwards. "I believe this is the beginning."
The 23-year-old Nishioka, ranked 171 in the world, in the end played seven matches in eight days at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Centre but his legs were full of running in a marathon final as he threw himself at everything Herbert could give.
As the match clock ticked towards two-and-a-half hours, Nishioka sealed the victory on his fifth match point - and looked as though he could hardly believe what had just happened. Twelve months ago, the Japanese player was stuck at home pondering his future after tearing an ACL. He will now return to the world's top 100 after that injury had seen his ranking plummet to as low as 362.
"It was a very long run to get here, seven matches," said Nishioka. "It's not easy. I'm very tired right now. I think my strength is my mentality and stamina and (I) never give up. That's my weapon."
The 27-year-old Herbert was never going to leave the southern Chinese city wondering, rattling off 12 aces and helping his opponent's cause with nine double faults and he poured on the power. But the Nishioka game plan - waiting out the barrages and keeping his opponent moving - worked a treat.
Both players came into the final unfancied and unseeded and both had yet to claim a ATP Tour singles title. Herbert had only made one final previously (losing in straight sets to South African Kevin Anderson at the Winston-Salem Open in the US in 2015) while Nishioka had never before graced the big stage. Before the final, Nishioka had put his run of form - kick-started by title at the ATP Challenger Tour stop in Gimcheon, South Korea, four months ago - down to a change in attitude.