World no. 72 Yoshihito Nishioka has embraced quite a journey in the last couple of days, experiencing all the highlights and big scenes of the ATP Cup and the grinding of the Challenger qualifying draw within just four days!
On Wednesday, Nishioka had the opportunity to playa against world no. 1 Rafael Nadal in Perth, staying on the court for more than two hours and pushing the 19-time Major champion to the limits, especially in the opening set.
Taking the ball early and dictating the pace, the Japanese held with ease in the opening two service games and broke Rafa to move 3-2 up, suffering a break in the next game before stepping in front again with another solid return game at 4-4.
Serving for the set, Nishioka got broken at love to keep Nadal alive, with the Spaniard taking the tie break 7-4 after more than an hour! They both had their chances in the first eight games of the second set and it was Rafa who delivered a break at 4-4, taking 12 of the last 16 points to move over the top and pass a tough obstacle.
Not signing to play in Auckland or Adelaide and still wanting to compete in the week before the Australian Open, Yoshihito signed to enter the qualifying draw at Bendigo 2 event, facing no other then Stefanos Tsitsipas' brother Petros 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 17 minutes.
Petros also had a chance to fight for Greece at the ATP Cup but stood no chance against the better-ranked rival, taking only 14 points in ten return games and wasting the only break chance he earned. On the other hand, Yoshihito took enough points in the rival's games to create six break opportunities, seizing one in each set to seal the deal in straight sets and move closer to the place in the main draw.
Tsitsipas sprayed a forehand error in the first game to suffer a break, having the opportunity to break a left-hander three games later before Nishioka saved a break point with a service winner. The Greek survived break chances in game five and stayed in touch until 4-5 when Nishioka held at 30 to grab the opening set 6-4, serving well in set number two as well to keep the pressure on the youngster born in 2000.
After many game points, Petros got broken at 2-2 in the second set and Yoshihito held that lead until the end, sealing the deal with a hold in game ten to set the meeting with Colin Sinclair on Monday morning.