If you were to flesh out the cohort of the next generation of tennis, the first few picks would be easy: Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev are the sure shots; Dominic Thiem and Lucas Pouille are a little older but have got to be in the mix; and from the U.S. there’s Jack Sock and hopefully Frances Tiafoe, too. But 21-year-old, 5-foot-7 Yoshihito Nishioka was my flier pick.
There was real depth and promise in the Japanese player’s freak run at Indian Wells, a tournament he entered as a lucky loser. Several matches’ worth of youthful, stubborn defense made me reluctant to dismiss his hot streak as a fluke. Just look at this shit:
Nishioka, ranked No. 70 in the world during Indian Wells, beat No. 21 Ivo Karlovic, upset No. 14 Tomas Berdych, and drew within two points of a win over No. 3 Stan Wawrinka. (He matches up well against guys who clobber the ball.)
Then, in the second round of the Miami Open, Nishioka took on No. 17 Jack Sock and went up a break in the first set to lead 4-2, before retiring with an apparently excruciating left knee injury.
That turned out to be an ACL tear, as he revealed yesterday, announcing that he’d undergo surgery on Apr. 4:
Rehabilitation will take time: Nishioka would be lucky to return to tournament play before the end of the calendar year. It will slow, but hopefully not extinguish, this surge from a young player who looked capable of diversifying the top tier of men’s tennis, in both stature and nationality.