The lone Japanese represent in the Chennai Open Challenger, 25-year-old Yasutaka Uchiyama is determined to make it to the final of the $50, 000 tournament.
The Jap won his only singles Challenger title last year at the Japan Indoor Tennis Championships in Kyoto and is looking to carry on the momentum.
“This tournament is very important for me and I am looking forward to reaching the final,” asserted the sixth seed, who registered a 6-1, 7-6 win over Max Purcell in the first round.
A little-known fact about Uchiyama is that he was part of Japan's Davis Cup squad that defeated Canada 4-1 in the World Group first round in 2014.
He had partnered countryman Kei Nishikori to defeat the Canadian pair of Daniel Nestor and Frank Dancevic.
“It was the biggest win for Japan and our first win in the World Group level. It was also undoubtedly the biggest win of my career. I didn't do well in my previous Davis Cup matches, but that match changed everything for me. It gave me an insurmountable amount of confidence and has also changed the way I think,” said Uchiyama to Sportstar on Tuesday.
While he is ranked 121 in doubles – which is far more impressive than his singles ranking of 222 – he insists that his focus is on playing more singles. “I'm thinking more on the singles side. Even though I won the doubles title at the Japan Open last year, I now want to play more singles. I need to play more this year to improve my ranking and want to reach the top-100,” he noted.
Commenting on the impact that Nishikori has had on Japanese tennis, he said that the fact that he broke into the top-100 is a great source of inspiration. “He is one of the most famous athletes in our country and he inspires us. He is something special for us. The fact that he's up there in the rankings makes me believe that I can make it there too,” said Uchiyama, concluding on an optimistic note.