Yoshi Nishioka looks like your typical high school student, standing 5’7”, weighing in at around 141 pounds, with a big wisp of hair hanging down sweeping across his temple that completely hides his forehead. He puts on that ubiquitous backward sitting baseball cap, usually tilted one way or the other so that you don’t know if the tilt is intentional or just by chance. You picture him wearing baggy shorts with his boxers peeking not-so-prudently out of the back of his trousers, as he carries his skateboard and wears his bookbag while walking to calculus class. Only calculus class for the 24-year old isn’t where they discuss differentials and dy/dx, rather the rectangle that presents challenging angles from the 78 x 27 foot tennis court. Because, although Yoshi looks like your typical next door neighbor’s kid motoring to high school every day, he is really a professional tennis player who has just made his second Tour Final here in Delray Beach, FL today with a chance of winning $97,000 when he plays tomorrow for the title and the hardware that goes with it.
Nishioka used a first set beat down at the hands of Ugo Humbert to learn rather quickly what he had to do to compete with France’s tough 21-year-old, who was playing with confidence and who was in complete control of their semi-final clash when the Frenchman won that opening set rather easily, 6-1. After winning just 13 of the 40 first set points, the Japanese, who evidently is a rather quick study, used a fortuitous early second set rain delay to regroup, and after steadying the ship, he regained his confidence and slowly ground Humbert down to win the second set 6-4, after another rain delay at 2-all. This proved more than pivotal, as Nishioka totally dominated the third set, gave up only ten points the whole set, and ran away with the match, controlling the deciding set entirely, winning it 6-0. You ask how a player can go from totally dominating and winning the first set with little trouble, 6-1, to losing the third set 6-0 and by winning only ten points in those six games, get totally outclassed, and you see the dilemma coaches have when dealing with young pros who can get emotional and have few tools to deal with that situation. That’s what Humbert must deal with now, but for Japan’s #2 player, this is a chance to win the title Kei Nishikori won back in 2008 and start nipping at the heels of his country’s top racketeer.
Nishioka’s Finals opponent has not been decided as the nightcap semifinal between big servers Milos Raonic and Reilly Opelka, which should be a match that will be determined by who might be able to return his opponent’s missile-like serves, was postponed because of rain. It will take place at 10:30 AM Sunday morning, with the Finals taking place not before 3:00 PM.
But something else caught my eye that surely should cause some controversy. Nick Kyrgios, the maddening Australian who was the top seed here in Delray before he pulled out with what he termed a “wrist injury” just six days ago, is not only set to compete in the ATP 500 tournament that begins tomorrow in Acapulco. His wrist must have made a remarkably quick recovery, because he is also entered in the doubles in Acapulco, playing with Jordan Thompson. Now no one other than Kyrgios himself knows what’s going on in his body, but there are some questions to be asked as to whether Kyrgios’ “injury” is or was real. After all, he wasn’t seen this week in Delray, but he was seen in Boca West, just a few miles away, where his girlfriend lives….