Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Nishioka vs Stricker … Again

Yoshihito Nishioka Australian Open
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It was the same final for the second week in a row in the States as Yoshihito Nishioka and Dominic Stricker battled for a Challenger title again, this time at Cleveland. Read back on this week’s action:

Cleveland

Yoshihito Nishioka came back to the ATP Challenger Tour after over two years in Columbus the week before, taking the title. Possible fatigue was always going to be a concern, but the Japanese pulled through tight three-setters against Yasutaka Uchiyama and college tennis legend William Blumberg. As such, he arrived in the final at Cleveland on a nine-match win streak. Awaiting him there was a very familiar foe.

Dominic Stricker lost to Nishioka 2-6 4-6 in the Columbus final, struggling to hit through the court as the Japanese absorbed and redirected pace extremely well. The 2020 Roland Garros boys’ singles champion doesn’t match up well against such opponents but he still impressed by finding two consecutive deep runs, something that didn’t really come easy to him in the past. The Swiss was also taken to a deciding set twice (by Emilio Nava and Michael Mmoh).

The youngster’s game has very little to do with patience, he’s simply always willing to move forward and looking for a big strike, whether it’s a forehand or backhand or just a well-placed serve. Compared to their Columbus final, Stricker was going for low-margin attacking balls even more, sometimes showing his dominance even right off the return. He also withstood some key longer rallies and after saving a crucial breakpoint at 4-4, landed the only break of the opening set to come closer to the championship.

Nishioka had to a medical time out down 1-4 in the second and his movement was clearly hampered by a lower back issue. He commendably tried his best to keep fighting but couldn’t really try to reach some of Stricker’s bigger forehands when being pulled wide. The 19-year-old took the title 7-5 6-1, winning his 2nd Challenger title (Lugano 2021). It also allows him to break the top 200.

Stricker’s next tournament will likely be the Pau Challenger in two weeks’ time, while Nishioka is supposed to compete in the main draw at an ATP event in Dallas, but his appearance could be under a question mark given the physical issues.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Bengaluru Open (Challenger 80, hard)
  • Challenger Cherbourg – La Manche (Challenger 80, indoor hard)

Another tournament was supposed to be held in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Jiri Vesely, Stefano Travaglia (Bengaluru)
  • Benjamin Bonzi (Cherbourg)

First-round matches to watch:

Bengaluru

  • (7) Elias Ymer vs Cem Ilkel
  • Jay Clarke vs Chun-Hsin Tseng
  • Jason Kubler vs (3) Aleksandar Vukic

Cherbourg

  • Gregoire Barrere vs Jack Draper
  • (WC) Harold Mayot vs Quentin Halys
  • Mikhail Kukushkin vs (3) Tomas Machac
  • Kacper Żuk vs (2) Pierre-Hugues Herbert