【2023/10/21】End of Wildcard Mochizuki’s Dream Run

The Ariake Colosseum was packed tightly tonight for the semi final of the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Tennis Championships. Japan tennis fans had come far and wide to witness an extraordinary run of success of a young Japanese player, Shintaro Mochizuki. He came into the tournament on a wildcard and stunned not only number 31 Alexei Popyrin but forced out the defending champion and top 10 player Taylor Fritz.

Mochizuki faced number 50 in the world, Russian Aslan Karatsev who had not lost a single set in the tournament so far, and has won all his matches in straight sets. This was in stark contrast to Mochizuki who fought two grueling three set matches to reach the semis. Karatsev’s last match against Alex De Minaur saw him win 72% of points on his powerful first serve.

The match started with Karatsev demonstrating his serving prowess and taking the first game. The crowd already started chanting ‘let’s go Mochizuki, let’s go’ when Mochizuki returned on court for his first service game. At 3-2 and 30-40 on Mochizuki’s serve, the rain interrupted play and the players had to leave the court for the roof to be closed. When play resumed Mochizuki was pushed back deep on the court for Karatsev to get the break 4-2. Karatsev continuously pounded his overpowering serves on Mochizuki, most of which exceeded 200kph. He followed up with deep powerful crosscourt shots pushing Mochizuki back and wide to finish either short or on the opposite side. Mochizuki held serve for 5-3 but the onslaught continued with Karatsev hitting a wide winning serve taking the set 6-3.

The crowd were subdued for the opening of the 2nd set but when Mochizuki hit the perfect drop shot to equalize they were ecstatic. In the equalizing game, Karatsev mercilessly hit a 215kph serve but Mochizuki battled on bravely until the break came for Karatsev at 3-2. Despite Mochizuki’s resistence saving two break points, Karatsev pushed him back and wide with powerful return of serve forcing Mochizuki to concede the break. At 5-3 when it seemed the set would inevitably go to Karatsev, Mochizuki held serve. When Karatsev served for the set, there was a deafening silence in the arena. However Mochizuki aggressively returned Karatsev’s serve to the thrill of his fans reigniting their energy. Karatsev’s serve was so powerful that a second serve at 199kph gave him match point. A final massive serve pushed back Mochizuki to the point of no return and marked the end of a glorious run for 215th ranked Mochizuki and the Japanese crowd’s dream of seeing their man in the home final.

At the post match press conference Karatsev said he had watched Mochizuki’s previous two matches and knew the danger of letting him come to the net. He found the match to be very tricky one because he knew his opponent was playing without pressure and had huge crowd support so he knew he had to keep focused more than usual. As for his next match he looked forward to playing Ben Shelton for the second time on the court he played on at the Olympics games in 2021.