Nishioka Magic In Cincy

Some tennis players are magicians and they can create impossible feats on a tennis court. A few who come to mind are Marcelo Rios, Fabrice Santoro, Roger Federer, Olivier Rochus, Nick Kyrgios, Victor Estrella Burgos.

Time to add Yoshihito Nishioka to the list. The diminutive Japanese 23 year old ranked 76 in the world is making a breakout this week in Cincinnati, defeating Kei Nishikori and today Alex deMinaur to reach the quarterfinals (vs. Mannarino or Goffin).

The five-foot-seven dynamo was on the edge of the top 50 two years ago when he wrecked his right knee while beating Jack Sock in Miami (chasing a wide Sock forehand to his backhand corner). It took a year to bounce back but now Nishioka is back in full flight and better than ever.

The bow-legged wizard almost beat Nick Kyrgios in Washington DC, losing in a third set tiebreaker. In Cincinnati he outsmarted Nishikori 76 64, in his first meeting with the Japanese sports icon. Today he followed up that win by decisioning the always tough deMinaur 75 64. This is Yoshi’s second straight set win over the young, tough-as-nails Aussie, the first came in Miami two years ago.

Nishioka is a studious admirer of Marcelo Rios, with a somewhat similar game, using incredible footspeed, hand eye coordination, touch and feel, angles, freakish counterpunching and phenomenal consistency.

Though his career ATP record is only a fair 43-52 and 11-14 this year, Nishioka may be entering his best form right now. And what the limits are to how far he can go is unpredictable. Same as it was for Marcelo Rios.

Nishioka showed in 2017 he could even go toe to toe with Rafael Nadal in Acapulco, where they dueled to a first set tiebreaker. He also gave Federer trouble at the US Open last year, losing 62 62 64. With more experience, Nishioka could evolve into a world beater like the Rios phenomenon.

Yes I know it’s unlikely and some may even say absurd. But magic is immeasurable. Some players have something so special that only few can see. They are capable of accomplishing feats that no one is able to forecast or project based on the evidence.

Nishioka, in my estimation, could potentially be one of those players who is able to defy public sensibility and establish himself as a solid top ten or five competitor. Or maybe even a no. 1 ranked player.

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  • Hartt · August 15, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Scoop, I am a big fan of Nishioka. I was watching the match on TV where he wrecked his knee, and will never forget that – it was a terrible thing to see.

    But to be fair to Kei, he was ill with what sounds like a sinus problem, and he said he has been having trouble breathing for a couple weeks. I am not sure if Yoshi could have won against a healthy Kei.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 15, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Hartt, are you buying those excuses? Trouble breathing? Kei is super fit, not sure if I’m gonna buy this from Kei, or if it’s damage control. Going to leave it at giving Nishioka 100% full credit for the career best first top ten win. Kei entered the draw and played the match, if he couldn’t breathe, why not default?

  • Jeff · August 16, 2019 at 2:42 am

    Japanese media reported that Kei was badly injured and he did call the trainers twice. He also is always injured and doesn’t usually lose to players like this.

    In other Japanese news, Naomi dismissed Sascha Baijin’s book in her press conference yesterday by saying she has no plans to read it. She obviously still hates his guts. Sasch said he would love to work with her in the future. I predict this will happen at some point.

    Methinks Naomi was jealous of the fling Sascha had, wishing he found her attractive. She is at the stage when she is starting to notice boys more. And apparently a lot of WTA players have sought dalliances with Sascha.

  • Matty · August 16, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Day 5 musings from Cincy,
    1). Kuznetsova has her visa issues fixed. And her game.
    2). Kenin fears no one.
    3). Osaka is world class. When her body holds up.
    4). Andy Murray is still entertaining.
    5). Midwest people are very nice folks.
    Didn’t get to see Barty or Gasquet today.
    Gasquet is still on the tour – and somehow winning

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 16, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Yes Matty, this surge by Gasquet is a surprise, thought he was finished as a threat. Murray will always intrigue, he’s a superstar legend who is trying to save his career which was a couple of sentences away from being kaput. Kenin is the real deal for sure. Kuznetsova might have one last hurrah left.

  • Matty · August 17, 2019 at 12:07 am

    Two more observations from the Cincinnati night matches;
    1). However you picture Madison Keys, she’s better than that – rocket forehand. Ran Venus straight out of Cincy.
    2). Nole is at the top of his game – power, fitness, attitude, etc. Will be tough to handle at the Open in two weeks.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 1:39 am

    It isn’t surprising that Gasquet has made this run based on talent. When you stare down the great Fed as a teenager the first time you see him and defeat the great one, you have talent. Gasquet also won his first two matchups with Andy Murray, his first with Del Potro and he beat Nadal in juniors and was a dynamo back then. One of the great talents in the history of tennis for sure and certainly in French tennis.

    It is surprising since Sir Richard has consistently been one of the great disappointments of the tour. His highest ranking is only No. 7 and that was back in 2007. For some reason, his game never developed and he has floundered to reach only 3 semis and 2 other QFs in slams despite his prodigious talent.

    I think he will beat Goffin and get blasted in the final by Novak or Medvedev.

    Interestingly, Gasquet has dominated Nishikori (8-3), Kyrgios (6-2), Davydenko (6-2) and Gilles Simon (8-1). Simon has called him one of his toughest opponents to face, even tougher than Djokovic and Fed.

    Yet Gasquet is also somehow 0-4 against Jack Sock. Gasquet is simply one of the most puzzling players in tennis history – and possibly the best male player never to reach a Slam final.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 3:38 am

    Jeff – Gasquet was once featured on the cover of a French tennis magazine as the Great Hope of the French game.
    He was 9 years old.
    Maybe that’s related in some way to his patchwork career.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Scoop – Kenin may be the real deal as you say but for some reason I find her less than enthralling to watch. I would never watch her play for (my) enjoyment, at least not at present. Stereotyped game.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Jeff – Pliskova got dumped by Kuznetsova and that maybe is why Karolina won’t make a GS. In spite of her serve she’s a major choker in the big moments.

    Nice to see Kuznetsova back again – hardly anyone remembers she’s won two GSs. Not a glamour player but she got the job done.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Also it’s heartening to see a woman player making a decent comeback at 34. Should encourage Kerber if she’s got retirement on her mind – there is life after 30 and a couple of slumps 🙂

    Pliskova – even with Martinez in her corner she doesn’t change her strategy and go for attack when that might reap dividends. Maybe not in her nature.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 6:31 am

    Catherine, Kenins game isn’t much unlike Kerber or Halep. She wins, she fights.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Yes, she does, but for some reason she’s a bit of a blank for me.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Kenin didn’t look very blank in wiping the court with Serena in French Open. Or winning her title.

  • Harold · August 17, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Gasquet forehand and fitness never came close to matching his backhand. His FH broke down in every big match.

    In his generation getting to 4-8 in the rankings was pretty much what everyone was playing for. He got there or close most of his career. Lost 47 matches to the Big 3…

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 9:31 am

    As someone who enjoys serve-and-volley, plus good net play in general, I am going to look for McNaly’s matches in the future.

    “She’s an all-court player: We want her to try to get forward, see the court, take balls out of the air, use her volley skills, mix in serve-and-volley,” said Kevin O’Neill, McNally’s coach, who has known her since she was 4. “Not many players really are doing that. Roger is one of the few guys; she’s patterned her game a little bit after Roger’s.” (NY tImes)

    You can’t have a better role model than Federer.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Scoop – I said she’s a blank for me, not for everyone. And I don’t mean her results. We like some players better than others – human nature.

  • Harold · August 17, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Kerber is a grinding counterpuncher, and you’re obsessed with her, yet every other player that doesn’t serve and volley, is a bore?
    I don’t get it. Sorry

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Anyone else on the Gasquet conundrum? It’s a mystery for sure how middling he is.

    Is he the best player never to make a Slam final?

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Harold – I’m not obsessed with Kerber. Her name comes up here again and again in various contexts and sometimes I respond because I follow her career, just as a few people on this site follow other players.

    I’m not looking for serve/volleyers – I’d have a hard time in the WTA wouldn’t I ? ( apart from McNally maybe, see above) I’m just not overwhelmed with Kenin, or not yet. Someone else here said something similar about her a while ago but I can’t remember who.

    I’m quite prepared to wait and see.

    BTW – I may be one of the older people on this site so perhaps it’s natural that I take an interest in a player like Kerber who is nearing the end of her career. A few things to think about. (And I don’t agree she is completely a grinding counterpuncher.)

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    And while we’re discussing obsessions – what of the reams written about DY and Harrison ? I’m not complaining – to each his own as they say.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 1:15 pm


    Yep another choke job by Pliskova against the ancient Sveta. Clearly it’s all mental and she needs to hire a new physchological coach or something.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    I think it is interesting that some very talented players get to the top and others don’t.

    I did a match call for the Gasquet vs Goffin match on another site, so I watched the match closely. As Robbie Koenig, one of the commies said, Goffin has a high tennis IQ. He simply outplayed Gasquet for the most part. Richard was hitting the ball hard off both wings, but David is so quick that he usually got to the ball and made an effective shot. And he was much steadier, making fewer UFEs.

    How good Gasquet was a young player hit home when FAA was breaking records “as the youngest to.” He was usually compared to a young Nadal or Gasquet or both.

    But Gasquet did not deliver on that early promise. I think Scoop is right, that a big part of that was Gasquet lacking the necessary obsession to get to the top. He’s had a good career but could he have had a brilliant one if he’d made the necessary sacrifices? Perhaps. He is 33 now, so he (and we) will never know.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Gasquet certainly hit a beautiful ball and still does. Even Pouille, though his game is more conventional and more pragmatic (for a Frenchman!).

    Hard to know with this stuff.

    Should we care whether Gasquet pulled it all together to be a slam champ? I think it’s an open question.

    Hartt Koenig knows his tennis! I think he’s one of the more astute announcers on the airwaves.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Andrew, I hate to put a limit on anyone, love for Gasquet to prove me to be an idiot, but Gasquet has as much chance to win a major as Dolgopolov or Querrey, it’s just not happening. Beautiful stylist though. Yes Koenig is a broadcast master. Makes every match better to watch.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    In the end it is up to the players themselves to decide how much they care and how much effort they are willing to make. But I think it is important for them to make their best effort so they don’t have regrets at the end of their careers. I tend to root for some of the less talented players who give it their all. As well as the talented ones who do that as well.

    This tourney is the first one in a while where I’ve had Koenig as a commentator and I’ve missed hearing him. Not only is he knowledgeable, but he is colourful and gets genuinely excited about the matches.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    So we will have a Masters champion who is not one of the Big 3! Excellent showing by Medvedev to beat Novak. I hope he is not too exhausted tomorrow, he has played a lot of tennis lately.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    Stunning win from Medvedev. I’d guess Djokovic is a little shocked himself. Agree with Hartt here. Wow, so Medvedev, three finals including two masters finals. Kyrgios plays unpredictable ball and beats him. Nadal beats him blindfolded (he wasn’t but might as well have had blindfolds) and Medvedev third time out, out Djokovices Djokovic. Wow!

    Sure best of three. So what?! That was a great win for Cincy champ Medvedev. Back in the day the Russians “invaded” the ATP tour, with Kafelnikov and Safin taking over for Cherkasov and Chesnokov, and the Russian revolution made even more of an impact on the WTA tour with three grand slam champs in Myskina, Sharapova, and Kuznetsova, as well as a perennial slam finalist in Dementieva (and a good looking one in Kirilenko – sorry!).

    Now? Khachanov, Rublev, Medvedev. And Medvedev has struck first. I don’t know if he can win a slam, but that group is a good posse for now, and they may have the “thirst for slams”. I thought Zverev did but he’s been preoccupied.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Left out Kournikova. But…one title…no revolution there!

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 1:04 am

    Kuznetsova plays Keys, who saw off Kenin in SS, in the Cincy final.

    I’m not a great fan of Keys but she’s played pretty strongly here and I can see her taking the title. But the USO is a different matter.

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Interesting chat with Sveta – not terribly revealing on the surface but suggesting a lot more going on in the background.

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Kuznetsova talked about how close the Russian players are. I especially liked her story about Karen pushing her to continue playing.

    “In a press conference after reaching Cincinnati semifinals, Svetlana Kuznetsova commented on the success of men’s Russian tennis with Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. “I was happy Medvedev was doing great in Canada.

    I texted him on Instagram. He replied and phoned me straight away”, said Kuznetsova. “With Karen, I talk a lot. Text sometimes, yeah. He was, like, Oh, what’s going on with your injury and this and that. He was pushing me to play.

    You have to play. I said, Look, I’m tired. I’m over 30. When you gonna be over 30 and play as much as I did, I will talk to you. Don’t make me do that. But he was really nice, really cute.” (Tennis World)

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Catherine, thanks for the link. Kuznetsova is a player you want to root for and it’s great that she is continuing to play and is doing so well. It’s good to hear that she’s found a solution to her coaching problems, and she will work with Carlos again, at least part of the time. It’s generous of Dasha to agree to that arrangement and I hope both women have continuing success.

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Apparently umpire Ramos and the Williamses will be kept apart at the USO and Ramos ‘will not be allowed’ to umpire Serena’s matches, or Venus’ presumably.

    Makes it sound as if it’s all the umpire’s fault and he’s being punished. An extraordinary decision, in principle. Now players can pick and choose their umpires. Does the USTA run the US Open or Serena Williams ?

    There’s absolutely no way this situation would ever happen at Wimbledon, or maybe at the other GSs. Puff up about Serena is in full swing it seems, with TV documentaries etc.

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 8:33 am

    The documentary is ‘Serena v the Umpire’ and is going to rehash the whole incident before the Open, apparently to keep everyone’s memories fresh. Are there no depths to which PR people can’t sink ? The whole thing should have been forgotten long ago. Disgraceful.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Makes you wonder what other advantages and privileges the USTA will cater to Serena’s demands.

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I wonder if not having an ump officiate a particular player’s matches is more common than we realise. We just don’t hear about it.

    A few years ago Rafa was open about requesting Bernardes not chair his matches and, as we know, it was a long time before Bernardes chaired another Rafa match.

    From a 2015 Telegraph article:

    “Nadal was almost nonchalant in his acknowledgment that he had sought to influence the officiating process. “Yes, it was my request,” he said. “I consider him [Bernardes] a great umpire and a good person, but I think when you have some troubles with the same umpire, sometimes it’s easy to stay for a while away, no?”

    The Association of Tennis Professionals confirmed on Tuesday that the situation was far from unique, as supervisors at each event take into account requests from both players and umpires when they draw up the officials’ schedules. Yet this is surely a suspect protocol.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Rennae Stubbs said on twitter she also requested to not play in front of three certain umpires. Rennae Stubbs
    Aug 16
    Here we go again kids! For everyone losing their minds over players requesting to NOT have a certain umpire on their matches, they have that right. I requested about 3 umpires to NOT do my matches again after problems & i was granted that request. It’s been happening forever!!

    IN other news, Kyrgios practiced with his “brother” Kozlov at US Open yesterday.

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 10:55 am

    In how many other sports do the players have the right to choose umpires/referees ? What happens in team sports ?

    For the umpires to agree to this, is, in my view, totally unprofessional.

  • catherine · August 18, 2019 at 11:26 am

    And what if the player’s opponent doesn’t agree that a certain umpire not officiate the match – who wins ?

    Whether an umpire is competent or not should be up to the umpires’ association to decide. And that should be the only criteria for favouring players’ requests about who should officiate.

    Talk about spoilt.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

    IN boxing the promoter who picks the judges and referee and of course the promoter usually has an interest in the outcome. This is why it’s so rare that big fights are made where one of the main event fighters is at risk of being on an unlevel playing field. I have heard stories that figure skaters and gymnasts do favors for the judges. Feel free to read between those lines.

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Regarding the ump question, David Law and Rennae Stubbs are having an ongoing debate about it on twitter.

    Law: “Sounds ridiculous. ‘I don’t fancy him/her being in the chair. Change him/her.’ What if the opponent doesn’t like the one chosen instead? Why should that player not have the same day? Where does it end?”

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    On ump debate, Stubbs:

    “Again David, It’s not a request that happens often as i have tried to point out to u. I played 22 years and asked it 3 times. There is no way the wta is going to put an umpire i like in and my opponent doesn’t like. They will make it work for both.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Power plays by star players is not a good look for tennis, what possible motive by a player could there be to force out an umpire from as assignment?

  • Hartt · August 18, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Nadal claimed his problem with Bernardes was when the ump wouldn’t allow Rafa time to leave the court to change his shorts, which he had put on backwards. He felt this was disrespectful. He said it wasn’t because Bernardes was tough in enforcing the time regulation in general, but I wonder if that wasn’t in fact part of his problem with the ump.

    “Nadal said the disrespect he felt from Bernardes created the rift.

    “Is something that happened in the past,” Nadal told the media at Wimbledon. “[It] is about what happened in Rio de Janeiro a couple years ago. For me personally was [disrespectful]. Not because of time violation. I can understand the time violations.

    “I can’t understand when I was wrong, I make a mistake, I put my shorts the other way. You cannot force me to change my shorts in front of everybody, you know. For me, that’s not respectful.” (Tennis Now)

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 18, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Bernardes might have known it was an intentional stall tactic by Nadal. Notice how Nadal rhymes with stall? 😎



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