Moyuka Uchijima: 25k ITF singles title in India, training amid top 100 and tennis back in Japan

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Winning her maiden $25,000 Women’s ITF singles title is the best Christmas present she could have, said Japanese tennis player Moyuka Uchijima.

On Saturday, the 20-year-old outlasted Diana Marcinkevica of Latvia 6-2, 7-5 in the singles final of the 20th edition of the NECC Deccan $25,000 Women’s ITF Championships.

“This is my first 25k win. It was one of my goals for the year and I made it this week. I am very happy with my performance and I did what I needed to do on the court. I had a good practice year before the matches and that has come to fruition in this tournament,” said Uchijima.

At the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts, Uchijima, very much like her previous matches throughout the tournament, took the first set 6-2. Although she continued her stride with a lead of 5-3 in the second set, a double fault and a break point in the tenth equalised the score for Marcinkevica.

“I knew that she is a very tough opponent and it would be tricky. I was 5-2 up but then she managed to reach 5 all, and I am happy that I closed it in the second set,” said Uchijima.

With junior Sara Saito winning two back-to-back ITF junior events earlier in December, Uchijima capped the hattrick for Japan with her victory. In the doubles, Japan had to settle for runners-up as top seeded pair Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Valeriya Strakhova of Ukraine claimed the doubles title, defeating Funa Kozaki and Misaki Matsuda 6-0, 2-6, 10-5.
Uchijima, who started playing tennis at the age of nine at her father’s company courts, now practises rallies with Zheng Saisai (79) of China, Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas (101) and Magda Linette (57) of Poland at the Star River Academy, Guangzhou, China.

Talking about training in Asia instead of Europe like many in the sport, Uchijima feels being comfortable was important to her. “I tried an academy in Spain but not all players are suited for Europe. I play against European girls and I do not think there is much difference. It depends if one is comfortable with the coach, the academy…. I met the team in China and I felt that I could improve, and that is the key for me.”

“Most of the Japanese players have started to go out for tournaments, including me. It was just in the juniors I played domestic but after I won a few tournaments in Japan, I wanted to play more ITFs. The trends are changing a lot. Naomi (Osaka) is one of my idols who has reached Grand Slams or WTA matches…Hopefully I can be like her and inspire people like she does. Kei Nishikori, too, showed that Japanese players can be in the top 5-10…” said Uchijima.

While Uchijima is elated with her recent win, bringing her titles tally for the year to three, her next year’s goals are set. “My next year’s goal is to reach the Grand Slam qualis and to break the top 200, by May-June and end of the year higher than that,” she shared.

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