No.1 Hiroyasu Ehara dropped excitedly to the ground after winning the singles final of the 2017 King’s Guam Futures Sunday afternoon, not only because it was his second ITF Pro Circuit title of year, but also because it was against one of his tennis role models growing up – Takao Suzuki.
In the rare opportunity, Ehara outlasted Suzuki, a former No. 1 player in Japan, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 20 minutes to win the tournament, an ITF Pro Circuit event presented by Docomo Pacific and Hilton Guam Resort & Spa.
“I am so happy to win because to me, (Suzuki) is a legend and I respect him so much,” Ehara said while gesturing to his opponent in a post-match speech in front of over 100 spectators at the Hilton tennis courts.
Ehara opened the match with impressive passing shots to counter his opponent’s serve-and-volley strategy and eventually jumped to a 4-0 lead, but to anyone who knows of Suzuki, the match was far from over.
Despite the score, Suzuki continued with his serve-and-volley game, collecting points on volley winners and well-placed drop shots against his hard-hitting, fit opponent. Suzuki rallied to lead 6-5 before rain temporarily suspended the match, but when the match resumed, Ehara managed to level the set to force the first set tiebreaker, which he eventually won.
Suzuki continued as the aggressor in the match, charging the net at every opportunity he created against Ehara, eventually leveling the match at two sets all.
Suzuki’s relentless play at the net and shocking shot placement continued to vex Ehara in the deciding set. Each time Ehara pushed ahead, Suzuki wasn’t far behind. When Suzuki fought back to get within one of Ehara at 4-3, Ehara threw his racket across the court in frustration.
Upon changing sides, Ehara maintained his composure and managed to close out the match for his second ITF Pro Circuit singles title of the year.
Suzuki still is a hero in Japan in Davis Cup play, as he currently holds Japan’s Davis Cup record for most total wins (41-23), most doubles wins (14-11), most ties played (31) and most years played (15). He also is tied for the most singles wins (27-12) with Tsuyoshi Fukui and is named as part of Japan’s best doubles teams in Davis Cup play, with Satoshi Iwabuchi (9-5), according to the Davis Cup Web site.
Ehara was just four years old when Suzuki turned professional, and just entered his teens when Suzuki played highly competitive matches against Roger Federer at the 2005 Australian Open and again at home in Japan a year later. At the 2006 Japan Open, then sponsored by AIG, Suzuki won the first set against Federer, who was then ranked No. 1 in the world, but eventually lost the third set tiebreaker.
Ehara and Suzuki were honored in a short awards ceremony after the singles final match, with each player addressing spectators with short speeches. Guam National Tennis Federation President and tournament director Torgun Smith, as well as ITF Supervisor Scott Ray of Australia, also delivered short speeches during the ceremony.
The Guam Futures is the highest level professional tournament in Guam, with the 2017 tournament featuring players and officials from Japan, Korea Republic, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Portugal, Switzerland, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
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