With a field full of big-serving players, the city of Tokyo gets ready to host the oldest ATP event in Asia. Japan’s star player Kei Nishikori is missing due to injury with a wrist problem keeping him out until 2018. But in his absence, the crowd may have hopes for Yuichi Sugita, who has played well on hard courts this season. With the smaller events in Shenzhen and Chengdu attracting less star power for many players this tournament marks the start of the Asian swing. But how quickly will the players adapt to a return to the Tour in Asia?
This year’s Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic is the top seed. The big-serving Croatian is looking for his second title this season. Cilic beat another big-serving player Milos Raonic to win his only title of the year in Istanbul earlier in the year. Cilic has traditionally played in Beijing, reaching the final there in 2011 (lost to Berdych) but may be looking for a fresh start in Tokyo. Raonic is here again in Tokyo as the third seed making his return after missing the US Open due to injury. Raonic is a three-time former finalist in Tokyo making the title match three years in a row between 2012 and 2014. Will 2017 be the year he has the luck in Japan?
Austria’s Dominic Thiem, who lost to Argentine Guido Pella in the opening round in Chengdu last week, is seeded second. The world #7 has won just one title this year and has struggled away from his preferred red clay. He will be looking to Tokyo as a chance to set that to rights. Belgium’s David Goffin, who won the Shenzhen title last week, is the fourth seed. South Africa’s Kevin Anderson and America’s Sam Querrey, who reached the finals and semifinals at the US Open respectively this year are seeded fifth and sixth. Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas and Argentine Diego Schwartzman complete the rest of the seeds. Other names worth watching include local hope Sugita and big hitters Feliciano Lopez, Ivo Karlovic, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.
First round match to watch
There are some interesting first-round clashes in Tokyo but the one that stands out is the match between Lopez and Goffin. Spain’s Lopez produced great results on grass this season, winning the title at Queen’s. But he could not replicate that form on the hard courts. Goffin did well to win the title in Shenzhen last week but could be feeling the effects of that campaign. The Belgian is also still finding his way back to full match fitness after a lengthy spell on the sidelines after Roland Garros due to injury. Both men are likely to give their full effort to this match as the chance to go deep in Tokyo is a tantalising prospect. Goffin has the more technically sound game, but he has been caught off-guard against more unusual players like Lopez in the past.
Top seed Cilic is seventh in the Race to London and he will be looking to strengthen his position as the season heads towards its conclusion. The Croatian will also be keen to put his disappointing third round exit at the US Open behind him. What better way to do it than to win his 18th career title at the Japan Open?
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