For Yasutaka Uchiyama, his career-best ranking of 78 is a distant memory. He sparred with ATP top-50 players week in and week out. But those days are behind him.
The titles and the million dollars that Uchiyama won during his career, now in its 12th season, are precious to him.
The prize that he places at the top, however, came in 2018 at the Stuttgart ATP 250, an event where he was eliminated from in the first qualifying round.
“I was in the players’ lounge just sitting with my coach, and Roger Federer’s coach was looking for someone to hit with him,” Uchiyama recalls.
The Japanese was ready in an instant. The chance to practise with Federer on a grass court was a no-brainer.
“They asked me to hit with him for 30 minutes. So that’s what happened. Just hitting for half an hour. I took a picture with him later,” Uchiyama added.
“I will never forget the day. He was an idol who gave me dreams,” he posted on his Instagram account about the session later.
On Friday, Uchiyama lost to Nicolas Moreno De Alboran in the quarterfinals of the Chennai Open.
It is the scramble of the Challenger Tour for the World No. 305. His career is now about fighting for those all-too-precious 100 ranking points to claw a way back to the former highs.
He can still hold his own in the ATP top-100, he feels. and wants to be at a Grand Slam main draw.
“I believe I can go back to the top 100. (I want) To play the main draw at the Grand Slams. I played some of them but did not win the match. Days like today are tough but if I keep going and believing in myself, then hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be there,” Uchiyama says.
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