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Nishikori Wins All-Japanese Clash; Ito Upsets Almagro

Tokyo, Japan

Nishikori© AFP/Getty ImagesKei Nishikori, who reached the Kuala Lumpur semi-finals last week, beat Go Soeda in Tokyo on Tuesday.

World No. 17 Kei Nishikori rallied past countryman Go Soeda 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to win his opener at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Tuesday in Tokyo.

The eighth-seeded Nishikori broke Soeda twice in the final set to stage his comeback win in just under two and a half hours. He avenged an earlier season defeat to Soeda in the Atlanta quarter-finals and ended a two-year streak of falling in the first round of the ATP World Tour 500 event at the Ariake Tennis Forrest Park.

Nishikori is looking to reach his first final in 2012. He advanced to his first semi-final of the season last week in Kuala Lumpur (l. to Monaco). His best result at his home tournament is a third-round showing in 2008. He will face Tommy Robredo next.

Tommy Robredo improved his record against Jarkko Nieminen to a 7-1 mark following his 6-2, 6-4 victory. The Spaniard won 74 per cent of his service points to advance in 73 minutes. Robredo is appearing in Tokyo for the first time since 2008.

Wild card Tatsuma Ito delighted home fans by recording the biggest win of his career with a 7-6(4), 7-6(5) victory over World No. 12  Nicolas Almagro. In a match featuring just one break of serve for each player, Ito hit 14 aces and won nine more total points than the fifth-seeded Spaniard to seal the win in one hour and 55 minutes. Ito secured his first ATP World Tour win since reaching the quarter-finals in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. to Paire).

In a translated interview with Japanese media, Ito said, “Almagro has great groundstrokes and it’s almost like hitting against a wall. But for some reason, I was able to unravel his strokes today and I gained confidence throughout the match.

“I didn’t feel any pressure playing in front of the home crowd. My family was here and I was helped by them and the spectators who were cheering for me. Today the home court was the best.”

For Almagro, the loss hurts his chances of qualifying for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He ranks 12th in the South African Airways ATP Rankings Race To London. The 66th-ranked Ito is the lowest-ranked player Almagro has been defeated by this season.

Ito advances to play qualifier Dmitry Tursunov. The Russian won 30 of his 33 first serve points en route to defeating Bernard Tomic 6-4, 7-5 in 82 minutes. Turusnov notched just his second tour-level victory of the year, following a first-round win at Roland Garros.

Sixth seed Milos Raonic reached the second round after defeating Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-4 to win his 40th match of the season.The World No. 15 broke Stepanek once in each set and hit eight aces to remain unbeaten against the Czech in their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

Raonic is bidding to win his third title of the year, having triumphed in Chennai (d. Tipsarevic) and San Jose (d. Istomin). The 21 year old enters this week ranked 14th in the South African Airways ATP Rankings Race To London, which determines the eight qualifying players for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

France’s Jeremy Chardy beat wild card Yuichi Sugita 6-1, 7-5. Chardy fired 14 aces and saved all three break points he faced in the 74-minute victory. He moves on to face No. 7 seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round.

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