Building a Tennis Nation: Japan

ONE of the more dominant tennis nations through the Australian Open Junior tournament was Japan, with top seeded players in both the boys’ and girls’ singles events. Though highlighted by 193cm Rei Sakamoto who took out the boys title, the powerful serving talent was far from alone when it came to his nation with eight junior girls inside the top 100.


ATP Top 100 Players [2]: #62 Taro Daniel (31yrs) | #84 Yoshihito Nishioka (28yrs)
21 & Under Top 500 Players [1]: #138 Shintaro Mochizuki (21yrs)
WTA Top 100 Players [1]: #94 Nao Hibino (29yrs)
21 & Under Top 500 Players [4]: #300 Sara Saito (17yrs), #365 Aoi Ito (19yrs), #369 Natsumi Kawaguchi (21yrs), #385 Sayaka Ishii (18yrs)



#3 Rei Sakamoto (2006)
#78 Yuta Tomida (2006)
#107 Naoya Honda (2006)

On the boys’ side, Sakamoto showed his potential for the future with his Australian Open win, defeating Jan Kumstat in the final, coming from behind to become the first ever Japanese Junior Boy to win the title. But Sakamoto has not just come out of the blue at Melbourne Park, with the Japanese talent also taking out the J300 in Traralgon making his record 12-0 in 2024.

The 2024 titles marks somewhat of a nice return to form, having gone title-less in 2023 off the back of four titles in 2022. With power to burn and having filled into his body, the 17-year-old is ready to tackle the ATP Tour. Given Japan just has the one male Grand Slam winner at senior level (Kei Nishikori), the Asian nation has cried out for another top-end talent with a bevy of top 100 players who could not quite ascend to the next stage.


#6 Sara Saito (2006)
#10 Ena Koike (2006)
#18 Wakana Sonobe (2008)
#21 Mayu Crossley (2006)
#60 Shiho Tsuijoka (2007)
#68 Hayu Kinoshita (2006)
#69 Hikari Yamamoto (2009)
#78 Reina Goto (2007)

For Japan to boast eight players inside the Junior Girls’ top 100 is incredible for a nation that outside of Naomi Osaka, has had limited success at senior level Grand Slams. Osaka is working her way back onto the Tour and is clearly one of the best players on Tour, but would love to have a few more players from her nation pushing for Billie Jean King Cup selection.

Semi-finalist Saito has already spent some time at senior level, making a quarter final before running into Emerson Jones in the Junior Girls’ Australian Open. She has plenty of potential for the future, having made minimal errors coming into that match and providing plenty of frustration for opponents as a consistent and reliable counterpuncher.

Ena Koike paired up with Saito in the Junior doubles, reaching the semi-finals of the event. In the singles, Koike impressive not dropping a set en route to the semi-finals, before running into top seed and eventual winner, Renata Jamrichova. She went down in three sets but was the only player to take a set off the Slovakian.

Wakana Sonobe turned 16 earlier this month, with the youngster incredibly inside the top 20 of the Junior Girls. While others will look to head to the senior tour, Sonobe still has plenty of time, with her and 14-year-old Hikari Yamamoto the youngest of the eight players in the top 100.


Japan’s incredible 10 players inside the Junior top 100s makes for exciting reading for the nation. In particular, the WTA Tour looks in good hands and while there are no guarantees making the jump from juniors to seniors, with the sheer volume of players, it is hard not to imagine at least a few of those top talents will translate their form into top 100 at senior level. For Sakamoto and Saito in particular, a bright future awaits.

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