Shintaro Mochizuki: “Winning The Junior Davis Cup Is The Nicest Memory!”

Shintaro Mochizuki (photo: Florian Heer)

TOULOUSE, September 4, 2022

Teenager Shintaro Mochizuki is one of the biggest tennis talents from Japan. The 19-year-old Kawasaki native won the 2019 Wimbledon Championships Boys’ singles title after becoming the first Japanese male to reach a Grand Slam juniors singles final. In September that year, he also led the his team to capture the Junior Davis Cup. 

In February 2021, Mochizuki made his ATP Tour main draw debut as a wild card at the Singapore Tennis Open where he lost to Altug Celikbilek in straight sets. In March 2021, he qualified for his first ATP Masters 1000 main draw at the Miami Open having been given a wild card for the qualifying competition.

We met the World No. 368 earlier this week at the Internationeaux de Toulouse ATP Challenger Tour event in Southern France for an interview.

Tennis TourTalk: It’s your first time here in Toulouse. What are your impressions?

Shintaro Mochizuki: I have been to a lot of cities in France. It’s my first time in Toulouse. It feels comfortable staying here. Very quiet. I really like it. I also like Paris as a city but for living I would prefer it here. 

You are one of the promising tennis talents from Japan, trying to get established on the Pro Circuit. How would you describe your experiences at senior’s level so far?

I have been struggling and also doing well. Of course I want to win more matches on the Challenger Tour and climb up the rankings to play tour-level events and Grand Slams. But I am not at this level yet. I am trying to be there soon. I believe myself that I can do it but it takes some time. I cannot be inside the Top 100 in one or two months and I understand it. I keep working and trust in myself. And one day I hope to be there.

What are the big challenges to adapt from junior’s to senior’s level?

The big difference is that you never have an easy win. You have to play with you 100 per cent every day to win a tournament. There are a lot of good players out there and I don’t know if it is a good thing to say but everyone plays to get more money. That’s the toughest part. 

Can you tell us a bit about your practice situation. Where are you based and do you have a travelling coach with you?

I am based at the IMG Academy in Florida. I don’t spend most of the time there but when I am in the States and I have a week or two weeks off, I go there to train. I joined the Academy when I was 12 years old. I know a lot of people there, who are always super nice to me. When I am in Europe, I am at the Elite Tennis Center in Cannes, where I started practicing in May. I really like it and they helped me a lot during the tournaments here in Europe.

Kei Nishikori is one of Japan’s biggest sports heroes. Do you follow what happens with the popularity of tennis in your home country?

After Kei’s success many people started to follow tennis. They have many good players ranked inside the Top 200. I don’t really know what’s going on in Japan about me, as I don’t go back there often. I have some people who support me a lot, which is very important for me. It’s always an amazing place to come back. 

Is it true that you actually wanted to become a baseball player?

Yes. (laughs) At the age of six or seven I was playing baseball and tennis at the same time. I played tennis every day but baseball only once or twice a week. At this time I didn’t have fun playing tennis, as it was a bit too much. So I wanted to become a baseball player. However, I chose tennis because I have been playing it since I was one year old with my parents. I started to go to a tennis school when I was three. I wanted to finish playing tennis. I continued with baseball until I was 12 when I moved to Florida and I still love playing it with my friends sometimes. I have my gloves and a bat and I follow Japanese baseball as well as the Japanese players at the Major League. It’s a big sport in Japan.

Do you set yourself any goals in terms of ranking positions?

I hope that I can crack the Top 200 by the end of this year. I don’t really know how the rankings work. I focus on my tennis and if I win a tournament I will go up. I don’t want to think too much about it. 

You had a lot of success on the Juniors Tour and were ranked World No. 1. If you have to pick one triumph, which will it be?

Many people might think that I will choose Wimbledon. Obviously, this was a great memory but for me winning the Junior Davis Cup with Japan was the nicest memory. It took place at the USTA National Tennis Center in Orlando, only a few hours away from the IMG Academy, and a lot friends came over to support me. I also really liked our captain Ko Iwamoto, who helped me a lot, and I wanted to win the title for him. It was the happiest moment at Junior’s level.

Interview: Florian Heer