Life on the ATP Tour is a relentless grind, with tennis stars constantly honing their skills and competing on the court. For Japanese tennis sensation Nishioka, finding balance and rejuvenation off the court has been crucial during the 2023 season.
One standout adventure was Nishioka's first-time experience of flying a plane above Phoenix, Arizona. He described the exhilaration of taking control for a few minutes, despite his initial fear.
In Nishioka's own words, "It was my first time flying [a plane]. The person who was sitting with me, he just got a license and he wanted me to sit by him. It was really great. I cannot do that in Japan, so it was really fun."
Beyond the thrill of flying, Nishioka believes these off-court experiences are essential for maintaining a healthy balance in the life of a professional tennis player. "You cannot be always focused," he said. "We need some time to relax, to play the next week or the next tournament. That kind of thing is very important for us and we can appreciate it, too."
During tournament weeks, Nishioka looks for brief escapes to unwind. Shortly after his flight in Phoenix, he was riding the waves on a jet ski off the Miami coast. These activities help him recharge and prepare for the intense competition.
'Yoshi's Cup': Empowering Young Talent
Nishioka's off-court interests aren't limited to adrenaline-fueled adventures. As Japan's top-ranked player, he founded 'Yoshi's Cup,' an annual tournament in Tokyo, to support young tennis talent. The tournament, streamed on his YouTube channel, provides opportunities for eight junior boys under 16 to compete, with expenses covered and significant prize money.
"In Japan, we are far away from anywhere," Nishioka explained. "If we have to go somewhere like the U.S. or Europe, it is very expensive. For the tournaments for juniors under 16, they cannot go by themselves, so they need someone to go with them, a parent or a coach, and the price is going to double. So I want to give support for this. I want to give a chance to somebody who is very talented."
Nishioka's commitment to tennis development doesn't end with juniors. He also offers an [ITF World Tennis Tour] Futures wild card in Japan, extending opportunities to those aspiring to turn pro.
In a surprising move, Nishioka initiated this ambitious project during the peak of his professional career. His rationale is simple: "I'm doing it now because I have a profile in Japan right now for tennis. So if I ask someone [for something], they might listen to what I say."
Nishioka's off-court adventures and the 'Yoshi's Cup' initiative exemplify his dedication to the sport's future, reinforcing the notion that athletes can make a profound impact beyond the scoreboard.