(Reuters) – Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka beat Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5 2-6 6-4 in the final of the Shenzhen Open in China on Sunday to win the first ATP World Tour singles title of his career.
It has been a long journey back for world number 171 Nishioka, who only returned to the sport in January after tearing a ligament last year.
The victory will see the 23-year-old unseeded Japanese break back into the world’s top 100 when the revised ATP rankings are released on Monday.
Herbert sent down 12 aces but paid the price for landing just 59 percent of his first serves and Nishioka kept the Frenchman’s second serve under constant pressure, picking up points at key moments to turn the course of the match.
After edging a tight first set and getting an early break in the second, Nishioka began to show signs of nerves as Herbert roared back into the contest by winning seven games in a row.
The decider started off with both players locked in an even battle before Nishioka secured the crucial break of serve in the fifth game of the set.
The Japanese played to his strengths throughout, staying behind the baseline and keeping his opponent constantly on the move as he began to control the rallies.
Herbert fought till the end, saving four match points but was unable to prevent Nishioka from converting the fifth to seal the title in two hours and 20 minutes.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)