One of two Japanese players playing on Rod Laver Arena on Day 5 of the tournament, Yoshihito Nishioka is going to have his work cut out as he takes on the defending champion and World No.2 Novak Djokovic for a spot in the fourth round.
It is the second straight Japanese opponent for Djokovic after he saw off Tatsuma Ito with the minimum of fuss, not dropping serve in a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory. He showcased a much improved serve in victory over Jan Lennard Struff in round one and that was on display again with 16 aces against his opponent, something that makes the Serbian an even more scary prospect for the rest of the tour. ”He was playing pretty aggressive and flat, with not too many unforced errors in the second set. I just managed to somehow find my way,” Djokovic said afterwards “From my side, my serve helped me a lot to get out of trouble. I knew shots would come quick and flat, so I had to be quite low [and] put some variety on the shots, spins, slices, and come to the net on occasion. It worked well.”
Nishioka was a well regarded prospect on the tour but has suffered a number of injuries in the past, with his intense grinding style likely to not help in that regard. He has never been in the top 50 but that hasn’t stopped him showing a level of player way beyond that and he did that again in round two, surprising Daniel Evans with a 6-4 6-3 6-4 win to make his first third round at a slam.
“He’s very quick, probably one of the quickest players we have on the Tour. You know what his strengths are [and] what his weaknesses are, so hopefully I can execute the game plan.” Djokovic said on his opponent. Unfortunately for Nishioka, it’s unlikely to be the type of game that will trouble the Serbian given his own level of athleticism. It has been a good run for the Japanese though and should provide a solid base for 2020, where he should eventually pick up a career high ranking above that of his current No.58 in 2017.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in straight sets