Shintaro Mochizuki is enjoying the best tournament of his young career after reaching the Japan Open semi-final on home soil. Before this week, the world No 215 had never won a tour-level match and he has since stunned three top 50 players – including top seed and defending champion Taylor Fritz.
Mochizuki received a wildcard into this week’s ATP 500 event in Tokyo which had a stacked field with 11 top 20 players in action. But the 20-year-old has managed to become the story of the tournament, storming into the semi-final despite having no experience of winning matches on the ATP Tour.
The Japanese star’s fairytale continued on Friday as he defeated world No 41 Alexei Popyrin in a close 7-5 2-6 7-5 match to advance to the semi-final. He had already upset world No 31 Tomas Etcheverry in the first round.
But his biggest win came in the round of 16 when he stunned world No 10 Fritz. The American was the reigning champion in Tokyo and was hoping to boost his chances of reaching the ATP Finals with a strong run this week.
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Fritz raced to a 6-0 lead over Mochizuki but the wildcard refused to go away, edging out the top seed in a final set tiebreak to win 0-6 6-4 7-6(2). “I don’t really know what is happening right now,” an elated Mochizuki said after the match.
“I lost the first set so easy, so quick. Everyone knows he is a great player but I kept fighting and that is all I could do. I am so happy. I don’t know how, but I won the match. I was a bit nervous at the start, not swinging. I was scared to miss. Then I tried to forget about everything and just started playing my game from the second set and that is how it went.”
Mochizuki will be hoping to keep his dream run alive on Saturday when he takes on Aslan Karatsev for a spot in the final. The Japan Open has thrown up some surprising results with Ben Shelton being the only top 20 player in the semi-final alongside Mochizuki, Karatsev and Marcos Giron.
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Second seed Casper Ruud crashed out in the second round while No 3 seed Alexander Zverev suffered defeat in his opening match. It has made things interesting in the race to the ATP Finals. Only four players have qualified for the season-ending championships so far – Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner.
There are still four spots up for grabs. And every player between seventh and 15th place in the race has already suffered defeat this week at tournaments being played across Tokyo, Stockholm and Antwerp.
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