Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka beat American wild card Brandon Nakashima 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in two hours and 26 minutes on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. But it was more than just an ordinary win for the 24-year-old.
The victory nearly guarantees that Nishioka will climb past his previous career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 58 on Monday. It’s an emotional accomplishment for the lefty, who achieved that ranking on 20 March 2017. Four days later, he tore his left ACL and he would fall as low as World No. 380 in April 2018.
“That should be my career-high ranking after coming back from my knee surgery,” said Nishioka, currently World No. 63. “I’m very happy for that.”
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Nishioka didn’t need to save a match point against Nakashima, but he was certainly tested. In the third set, Nishioka took a 5-1 lead, but Nakashima brought it back to 5-4 before the Japanese was able to finish off his victory.
“I think he played great tennis today… he played almost perfectly,” Nishioka said of Nakashima, who was trying to reach his first tour-level semi-final in his ATP Tour main draw debut. “He was playing so good from the beginning. I thought I lost today.
“He can hit the ball, he never misses that much. His service games are perfect. It was a very tough match, but I just kept my mind straight and just focussed.”
Nishioka will next play sixth seed Ugo Humbert, who was efficient in a 6-1, 6-2 win against 2018 champion Frances Tiafoe.
“Big performance today. It’s never easy to play Frances. You have to be at 100 per cent if you want to have a chance to win,” Humbert said. “He’s always dangerous, he has a big serve, big forehand, and I tried to stay focussed on my plan and what I had to do.”
Humbert is into his fifth ATP Tour semi-final, and his second in the United States. The lefty is the first Frenchman to reach the Delray Beach semi-finals since Adrian Mannarino in 2015.
Reilly Opelka, the 2019 New York Open champion, did not face break point in a 6-3, 6-4 win against South Korea's Soonwoo Kwon.
"It was ugly, but that's part of it," Opelka said. "Given the circumstances I served unbelievably. It was one of the windiest matches