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Del Potro Begins Tokyo Title Quest

Tokyo, Japan

del Potro© Getty ImagesJuan Martin del Potro converted three of his six break point opportunities and lost 10 points on first serve.

Juan Martin del Potro began his quest for the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title on Tuesday.

As rain suspended play on the outside courts, top seed del Potro came through a gutsy challenge from Marcos Baghdatis to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in just over two hours under a closed roof at the Ariake Coliseum.

“I knew drawing Baghdatis in the first round could be the worst match that I could have,” said del Potro. “He plays really well on hard courts and I realised his potential. It was a really good match and we both played very well. I really tried to focus to break serve, but Marcos hit a lot of aces and served well."

Baghdatis, a semi-finalist last year, was particularly fluent on serve and rarely allowed del Potro to play his best tennis. Having spent 37 hours reaching Tokyo, del Potro fought back from a slow start and appeared to raise his game at 4-4 in the second set.

In a fiercely contested third set, Baghdatis saved two break points in the eighth game. But with his energy flagging after several long baseline rallies, del Potro seized his chance to break serve.

Baghdatis hit 17 aces and lost nine of his first service points, but the former World No. 8 could not deny del Potro, who was playing his first match since he suffered a US Open second round loss to Lleyton Hewitt. The pair also met at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.

“I was feeling good on the court, after one month at home," said del Potro. "I am ready to play well here, but I realise that I will need to play better against Berlocq. My wrist is okay and I was hitting my backhand almost 100 per cent. My serve went well and I didn’t double fault, which I am happy about."

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Del Potro has already lifted two ATP World Tour 500 trophies this year at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (d. Benneteau) and the Citi Open (d. Isner).

This week, the 25-year-old Tandil native will be looking to better his 2008 runner-up finish and also improve his chances of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in November.

Del Potro is currently in sixth position in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

“It would be fantastic to qualify for London," admitted del Potro. "I am currently in sixth position, but I realise there are plenty of players fighting for a spot. I know that I have to do well this week to give myself a chance. Being in London would be a great way to finish the year."

Other Top 16 contenders who are competing in Tokyo this week include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, last week’s Thailand Open titlist Milos Raonic and Nicolas Almagro. Tsonga and Almagro reached the second round on Monday.

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