One year ago, Yoshihito Nishioka won his first ATP Tour title in Shenzhen. And afterwards, during his speech to the crowd, the Japanese player said, "Please remember my name. It's not Nishikori, I'm Nishioka."
Nishioka was speaking about Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori, who has not only been a hero for his country, but someone Nishioka looked up to. Now, the two Japanese will play together at the inaugural ATP Cup in January. Nishioka speaks to ATPCup.com about his memories of practising with Nishikori when he was a teenager, why he's excited about the new team event and more.
What’s going to be the most fun part of being on a team and representing your country at the ATP Cup?
We know each other very well and I think Team Japan is growing up as a very strong team with Kei, me, Ben McLachlan, and more. There are many top players right now. Now I think we have the strongest team in Japan. We have great friendships together, also. I think we are good teammates and that can [play] a big part.
What’s most exciting about the ATP Cup itself?
This is the first one so I don’t know what’s going to go on, but this is a new thing, so I think for sure it’s going to be different… if I lose it’s losing for Japan, so there will be pressure. But if I win against the pressure, I think I can be bigger in my tennis life as well. I’m very excited for that.
Who did you admire growing up and why did you admire them?
When I was a kid, I was looking for Rafael Nadal, because I’m a lefty. He’s a lefty, and he was my hero. And then now, I love to watch Marcelo Rios from Chile. But now also, for sure Kei Nishikori. We practised together when I went to IMG Academy. He taught me many things, he showed me many things and I watch him practising many things.
What are your early memories of playing tennis in Japan?
I just played tennis all my life. I went a little bit sometimes fishing, but my dad is a tennis coach and my mom is also a tennis coach. I have only tennis memories.
What’s special about representing your country?
I love to play for my country. Not many times I have played for my country because tennis is one-on-one, so this is a very special moment for me, for us. That’s very exciting.