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Who's Next? Hiroki Moriya

Who's Next?

Moriya© Hiroki MoriyaHiroki Moriya is aiming for direct entry into the 2014 Australian Open.

With Kei Nishikori on the cusp of the Emirates ATP Rankings Top 10, Japan is seeing a rise in the number of players looking to follow in the 23 year old’s footsteps. One such inspired youngster is Hiroki Moriya, who fell in the second round of his bid to qualify for the US Open last week.

A year ago, Moriya made his tour-level debut at Flushing Meadows, winning three qualifying matches before losing to Ivan Dodig in the first round. He went on to claim his first tour-level win in Bangkok over Robin Haase (l. to Tipsarevic 2nd RD) and pushed Stanislas Wawrinka to three sets the following week in Tokyo.

The 22 year old is currently World No. 181 and is hoping to be high enough by the end of the season to gain automatic entry into the 2014 Australian Open. As part of Tecnifibre’s ‘Who’s Next’ series, caught up with Moriya to hear how a sibling rivalry ignited his tennis career, how his career is developing in Japan and how he is benefitting from the ‘Nishikori Effect’.

How did you get your start in tennis? Are you a part of a tennis-playing family?
I started playing because my parents were, and still are social players. My sister is currently a tennis coach after having played Japanese college level until recently. When I was very young (before I was six years old), I used to tag along with them during the weekends. Then when I started to hit the ball properly I had a strong urge to beat my older sister! 
Who were your tennis idols growing up?
I used to watch two players. I followed Lleyton Hewitt during my elementary school days because he is not a big built player, which is similar to me, and because of his fighting spirit. I also liked to watch Novak Djokovic for his aggressive playing style.  
How does having a countryman like Kei Nishikori, being on the cusp of the Top 10, provide inspiration for other Japanese players like yourself?
As a fellow Japanese player, having Kei at the top of men’s tennis makes us incredibly motivated to try and catch up with him. It provides us huge inspiration. If he can do it, so can the other Japanese players!
How meaningful was it to win the Japanese National Championships in 2011?
As a Japanese player, to step onto the podium at the National Championships is always a big goal in our tennis careers. I was very happy to have won the title. I hope that I can use this as a stepping stone to go to the next step and to perform well on the ATP World Tour. 

Have you had the opportunity to train at the recently developed National Tennis Centre in Tokyo? What are the facilities like there?
Yes, as I am part of the national team, I am lucky enough to use the National Centre as my training base. The tennis courts are only a small part of a big complex. Athletes from all Olympic Sports use the facilities as the complex is part of the Japan Olympic Committee's training centre. 
In addition to the courts, there is a large, well equipped gym, a swimming pool for rehab/ training and a hotel for athletes to stay in. It is a super place to stay and train during the weeks in between tournaments and when you are undergoing rehab during injuries. 
MoriyaLast year you qualified for the US Open, your first Grand Slam main draw. Can you describe your emotions during your first-round match and what have you taken away from that experience?
Competing in the main draw at a Grand Slam is something which you aim for as a tennis player. I was very happy to have come through three matches and to qualify for the main draw. During my first-round match, I got quite nervous and couldn't unleash my maximum potential. I felt very disappointed after the match to have lost, but after thinking back, I found a new personal goal and challenge: to play Grand Slam events constantly. 
A month later, you won your first ATP World Tour match, in Bangkok. Which area of your game do you feel you need to improve to return to that stage and progress even further?
I learnt that working on specific areas of your game technically is only a small part of becoming a top player. I felt that to compete week-in, week-out at this level, I need to be more confident, to believe in myself and to be tough mentally. 
What are your goals and expectations for the end of 2013?
I still have a handful of tournaments on my schedule until the end of the year. I hope that by the end of the year, I will improve my ranking so that I can enter the Australian Open as a main draw player. 
Give us a glimpse into your life outside of tennis. What do you do to relax? What are your hobbies? 
During my days off, I often go to Tokyo or Yokohama with my friends. I have started to follow baseball recently, with a liking for the Tokyo Giants team. So I often watch these games, both at the stadium when I'm in Tokyo and on TV. I also like listening to Western (American/British) music so hopefully it will help me improve my English!

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