Finals Contender Cilic Wins Tokyo Opener
Anderson to face Harrison in second round
Top seed Marin Cilic played with great assurance on Monday at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships as he continued his comeback from an adductor injury with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over #NextGenATP Greek qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas in 74 minutes.
Cilic, who celebrated his 29th birthday on 28 September, lost his serve just once in the third game of the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, ultimately finishing with eight aces and having won 24 of his 29 first service points. “He’s a good player, an upcoming star of men’s tennis, who broke me early and forced me to find my best level and a good rhythm,” said Cilic. “At the end, I was pleased with the way I served and how I played.”
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The Croatian, who is currently at No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Race To London, is hoping to gain valuable match wins in order to not only improve his chances of qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November, but also to finish in the year-end Top 5 – a goal he set himself at the start of 2017.
Last year’s Tokyo semi-finalist, now 34-15 on the year (8-8 on hard courts) that includes the Istanbul crown (d. Raonic) — the 10th straight year he has picked up an ATP World Tour trophy — will face Japanese wild card Yuichi Uchiyama, who ousted Croatian qualifier Franko Skugor 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in two hours and five minutes.
Fifth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson, fueled with confidence following a run to his first Grand Slam championship final at the US Open, extended his perfect record to 3-0 over Gilles Simon of France 6-2, 7-6(6) in one hour and 33 minutes. Anderson, who struck 17 aces past 2014 semi-finalist Simon, now plays American Ryan Harrison, who fought to overcome 19-year-old Japanese qualifier Yosuke Takahashi, playing his first ATP World Tour tournament, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in just over two hours.
Elsewhere, France’s Adrian Mannarino battled hard by saving two set points in the second set to overcome Go Soeda, a Japanese wild card, 7-5, 7-6(3) in one hour and 45 minutes for his 25th match win of the year. He will next challenge Czech Jiri Vesely, who overcame seventh-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes.
Former World No. 19 Bernard Tomic recorded his first ATP World Tour match win since late June (at the Aegon International) when he knocked out Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Both players hit 10 aces in the one-hour and 46-minute encounter. He will now meet eighth seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman or American Donald Young.