Alongside Beijing, the Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo is one of two ATP 500 hard court events in Asia this week. Previously a joint tournament, the event recently split with the WTA event being played in the week preceding this. The event has had few multiple winners and since 1995, the event has been won by a different player each year. Two former champions will look to end this run, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kei Nishikori seeded second and fourth respectively.
Full Draw HERE: ATP Tokyo 2013 Draw
Juan Martin Del Potro (Bio) heads the field as top seed in his first event since the surprising US Open loss to Lleyton Hewitt in Round 2. Del Potro has gone 20-7 on hard courts this year with a title in Washington his only reward on the surface. A title here would remove much of the doubt surrounding his participation at the World Tour Finals and he looks well equipped to go far if he can navigate a tricky opener against Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis has gone 2-2 against Del Potro on the tour and pushed the Argentinian to three sets at Dubai this year, losing in a third set tiebreak. The winner will play either Carlos Berlocq or Pablo Cuevas, which should be fairly easy pickings for either player. Cuevas continues to work his way back and enters with his protected ranking once more. He served for the match at *5-4 in the second set against eventual Kuala Lumpur winner Joao Sousa before losing nine straight games in what has to be disappointing defeat. Cuevas leads the head to head 4-3 but they have not played a match off clay.
One of only two matchups in round one in which the players have yet to meet in their careers, Alexandr Dolgopolov plays Daniel Brands. Brands failed to take advantage of his draw in Kuala Lumpur losing in the first round to Adrian Mannarino and will struggle here if Dolgopolov plays close to his highest level. Victor Hanescu is looking to end his five match losing streak against Janko Tipsarevic (Bio). Even though the Serbian’s level has dipped dramatically this year, he should be finding it fairly easy against an opponent that has lost to the likes of Karen Khachanov, Alex Bogomolov and Leonardo Mayer on hard courts in recent weeks.
Defending champion Kei Nishikori (Bio) is fourth seed here but his draw isn’t too favourable. Kuala Lumpur semi finalist Jurgen Melzer is first up for the Japanese player who will be seeking his third career ATP title this week. The head to head is tied at 1-1 with Nishikori winning the only meeting this year on the Madrid clay in straight sets. Home wildcard Tatsuma Ito opens against Feliciano Lopez. An excellent serving performance by Milos Raonic accounted for Lopez in Bangkok last week but there should be no such issues against the 163 ranked opponent. Ito has a losing record on the Challenger circuit this year with his best performance a quarter final.
After losing in the opener in Kuala Lumpur, Ryan Harrison fell to a disappointed 11-20 on the year. He qualified here with wins over Grega Zemlja and Lukas Lacko and his reward is a meeting with Horacio Zeballos. Zeballos won their only meeting two years ago but has been disappointing since the extraordinary week of Vina del Mar and has reverted to type rather than kicking on from that tournament. Nicolas Almagro (Bio) is another player on a downwards spiral with five straight losses now after losing to Adrian Mannarino in Kuala Lumpur. He played Benjamin Becker who needed a third set tiebreak to defeat Michal Przysiezny and earn his spot in the draw.
Lukas Lacko was defeated in three sets by Harrison in final round qualifiers but gets a spot in the draw due to the withdrawal of Michael Llodra. He will face seventh seed Kevin Anderson (Bio). The South African has gone 22-11 on hard this year and should make it 23 against an opponent who has only won one main draw match on hard courts since the Australian Open. An intriguing tie with Dmitry Tursunov would await should the Russian defeat Edouard Roger Vasselin who qualified after defeating Alejandro Falla and Matteo Viola. Tursunov has a 2-0 record over the Frenchman including a straight sets win in Marseille this year.
Milos Raonic (Bio) comes into the tournament on a roll after picking up the Bangkok title – the fifth of his career. He should outclass his Japanese opponent Go Soeda who is 6-13 on the year. With Jeremy Chardy – who has been highly disappointing post-Wimbledon – or Marco Chiudinelli in round two, it’s hard to see anything but a big serving matchup between Raonic and Anderson. They have met twice before with a straight sets win at the 2013 French Open for Anderson avenging a defeating in San Jose the previous year.
The final quarter has a distinctly French feel to it with both seeds being French as well as a dangerous unseeded player in Gael Monfils. Sadly for Monfils, he was unfortunate enough to draw his countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Bio). It promises to be a great match with both players well known for their showsmanship and entertaining styles of play. Tsonga leads the head to head 3-1 including a semi final win at this tournament in 2009 in straight sets on his way to the title. Yuichi Sugita or Ivan Dodig would be up in round two. These two have never met before but the advantage has to be given to Dodig whose greater experience at ATP level should see him past Sugita who was victorious in Shanghai Challenger a few weeks back.
Fifth seed Gilles Simon (Bio) has had a productive couple of weeks, first winning Metz and then making the semi finals of Bangkok. Tsonga may stop him at the quarter final stage this time but he has a surprising record against first round opponent Marcel Granollers. Granollers is 4-1 against Simon including the last three meetings, two of which were in Valencia. The winner plays either Juan Monaco or Jarkko Nieminen in round two. The head to head is tied at 2-2 although Nieminen has won both matches on the faster surfaces.
SF: Juan Martin Del Potro defeats Kei Nishikori
SF: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeats Milos Raonic
F: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeats Juan Martin Del Potro