Two top-10 tennis stars in Juan Martin del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga led a field of talented players in Tokyo for the 2013 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships this week.
While Tsonga bowed out in the second round, Del Potro captured his first title in Tokyo on Sunday with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Milos Raonic.. The 2009 U.S. Open champion was seen as the man to beat this fall, and he didn't disappoint.
It was the second consecutive runner-up finish for Raonic at this tournament, which has to be frustrating in a sense despite the encouraging form he displayed both times. The Canadian had just won a title in Thailand, beating Tomas Berdych in that final
Raonic lost to Kei Nishikori in Tokyo last year, who was kncoked out from the tournament in 2013 by Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals in three sets. Nishikori, a Japanese native, was at least able to improve on his past two ATP appearances where he was defeated in the opening round of each.
Read on to find how how Del Potro took home the trophy in the final at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
No. 1 Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
No. 2 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, France
No. 3 Milos Raonic, Canada
No. 4 Kei Nishikori, Japan
No. 5 Michal Przysiezny, Poland
No. 6 Nicolas Almagro, Spain
No. 7 Kevin Anderson, South Africa
No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic, Serbia
Click here to view the singles draw courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com.
Click here to view the daily schedule courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com.
Day 1 Scores
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2) def. Gael Monfils; 6-3, 7-6 (10-8)
Nicolas Almagro (6) def. Benjamin Becker; 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-3)
Alexandr Dolgopolov def. Daniel Brands; 6-3, 6-1
Jarkko Nieminen def. Juan Monaco; 7-6 (7-4), 6-1
No. 2 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was fantastic on serve on Day 1, winning 70 percent of his total service points and not allowing compatriot Gael Monfils a single break-point opportunity. As a result, Tsonga would earn a straight-sets win to advance to the second round.
Meanwhile, sixth-seeded Nicolas Almagro picked up a dramatic win over qualifier Benjamin Becker, surviving the veteran German in two consecutive tiebreakers.
Almagro would record 11 aces and win an astounding 88 percent of his service points for the match.
In other first-round action on Monday, unseeded challengers Alexandr Dolgopolov and Jarkko Nieminen won comfortably in straight sets to advance to Round 2.
Day 2 Scores
Juan Martin del Potro (1) def. Marcos Baghdatis; 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Kei Nishikori (4) def. Jurgen Melzer; 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 6-2
Michal Przysiezny (5) def. Marcel Granollers; 1-6, 6-3, 6-4
Lukas Lacko def. Kevin Anderson (7); 6-4, 7-6 (7-2)
Janko Tipsarevic (8) def. Victor Hanescu; 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 6-4
Feliciano Lopez def. Tatsuma Ito; 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
Carlos Berlocq def. Pablo Cuevas; 7-6 (7-4), 6-2
Ivan Dodig def. Yuichi Sugita; 6-3, 6-1
Horacio Zeballos def. Ryan Harrison; 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
Edouard Roger-Vasselin def. Dmitry Tursunov; 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
The top overall seed in Tokyo, Juan Martin del Potro fought back to win his opening-round match on Day 2, batting his way past Marcos Baghdatis, who showed he was up for the challenge by firing off 17 aces in all.
Unfortunately for Baghdatis, Delpo was eating him alive on the second serve, winning 24 of 44 second-serve points for the match to book a spot in the second round. Delpo will square off against compatriot Carlos Berlocq in Round 2 later this week.
In Tuesday's biggest upset, world No. 81 Lukas Lacko of Slovakia took out the No. 7 seed Kevin Anderson, beating the 6'8" South African in straight sets to set up a second-round clash with Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
The key to Lacko's surprising victory was his ability to put 67 percent of his first serves in play.
The other three top seeds in action on Day 2 all advanced to the second round, including defending champion Kei Nishikori, who rallied from a one set to love hole to knock off Jurgen Melzer.
Day 3 Scores
Jeremy Chardy def. Marco Chiudinelli; 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-6(6)
Milos Raonic (3) def. Go Soeda; 6-4, 7-6(0)
Juan Martin del Potro (1) def. Carlos Berlocq; 6-2, 6-2
Ivan Dodig def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2); 6-4, 7-6(5)
Alexandr Dolgopolov def. Janko Tipsarevic (8); 6-3, 7-6(2)
Jarkko Nieminen def. Michal Przysiezny (5); 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2
If you love tiebreakers, you would have loved Wednesday's action at the Japan Open. There were a total of six tiebreakers across the six matches. That lead to some great tennis, and few matches where the margin for error was razor-thin.
Throw in more than a few upsets, and it was a great day for tennis fans.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the biggest seed to have been bounced, after his loss to Ivan Dodig in straight sets. His knee was giving him a lot of problems, and as a result, he was never really able to get into the match. Dodig got out on the front foot and didn't let up from there. When Tsonga was trying to claw his way back, the Croatian was able to hold him off.
Janko Tipsarevic and Michal Przysiezny were the other seeded players to lose on Day 3. Przysiezny pushed it to three sets, while Tipsarevic went down in straight sets, after losing a tiebreak in the second.
At least No. 1 seed Juan Martin del Potro was able to advance to the quarterfinals. He was the only winner who actually eased through his Day 3 match, cruising past Carlos Berlocq. Del Porto was able to tee off on Berlocq's second serve, winning 15 of 17 points.
Day 4 Scores
Milos Raonic (3) def. Jeremy Chardy; 6-4, 6-3
Kei Nishikori (4) def. Feliciano Lopez; 7-6 (7-4), 6-0
Nicolas Almagro (6) def. Horacio Zeballos; 6-4, 6-2
Lukas Lacko def. Edouard Roger-Vasselin; 7-5, 6-4
All three top seeds in action in Tokyo on Thursday won easily to advance to the quarterfinals.
Milos Raonic, who has now won six consecutive matches on tour going back to last week's tournament in Bangkok, blasted 17 aces past France's Jeremy Chardy to set up a quarterfinal clash with lucky loser Lukas Lacko on Friday.
Lacko defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin in straight sets on Day 4, capitalizing on three of nine break-point chances to squeak by his fellow unseeded challenger.
In other action, defending tournament champion Kei Nishikori traded breaks twice with Feliciano Lopez in the opening set of their second-round match, but was able to survive a tiebreaker before going on to rout Lopez in the final set.
Nishikori would win 26 of the 34 total points in the final set.
Up next, the top-ranked Japanese star will play sixth-seeded Nicolas Almagro, who topped Horacio Zeballos in straight sets on Thursday, breaking the South American three times while not allowing him a single break-point opportunity of his own.
Day 5 Scores
Juan Martin del Potro (1) def. Alexandr Dolgopolov; 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
Milos Raonic (3) def. Lukas Lacko; 6-3, 6-3
Nicolas Almagro (6) def. Kei Nishikori (4); 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-3
Ivan Dodig def. Jarkko Nieminen; 6-2, 7-6 (7-3)
Overall top seed Juan Martin del Potro fought from behind in Tokyo on Friday to secure his first semifinal berth in Tokyo since 2008. The powerful Argentine had no answer for Alexandr Dolgopolov's first serve in the opening set and wound up squandering four break-point opportunities to fall into a one set to love hole.
Delpo learned his lesson quickly, though, capitalizing on four of five break-point chances over the final two sets to outlast the unseeded Ukrainian.
In another exciting match that went the distance on Day 5, sixth-seeded Nicolas Almagro topped defending tournament champion Kei Nishikori, dominating the first-set tiebreaker to put the fourth-seeded Japanese star at an early disadvantage.
Almagro's first serve was effective throughout the match as he landed 15 aces and went on to win 73 percent of his first-serve points. He'll take on del Potro on the top of the draw on Saturday.
Elsewhere on Day 5, third-seeded Milos Raonic took out lucky loser Lukas Lacko comfortably in straight sets. Unsurprisingly, the Canadian won nearly 80 percent of his total service points. Raonic has now won seven consecutive matches going back to last week in Thailand.
Up next, the scorching-hot Raonic will square off with the only remaining unseeded player in Ivan Dodig, who controlled the tempo of his quarterfinal clash with Jarkko Nieminen to pull out a straight-sets victory on Friday.
Day 6 Scores
Juan Martin del Potro (1) def. Nicolas Almagro (6); 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-1)
Milos Raonic (3) def. Ivan Dodig; 7-6 (7-4), 6-1
For the second consecutive week, Milos Raonic will play in a tournament final. The 22-year-old Canadian has won eight straight matches going back to last week's Thailand Open and is potentially two sets away from winning his third singles title in 2013, and the sixth of his career.
The third-seeded star is playing with tons of confidence at the moment after dispatching Ivan Dodig in Saturday's semifinal. Raonic laid down 12 aces in all, showed nerves of steel in the first-set tiebreaker and only allowed Dodig one break-point chance for the match.
But the going will only get tougher in Sunday's final.
Standing in Raonic's way of another title is overall top seed Juan Martin del Potro, who escaped his semifinal clash with Nicolas Almagro thanks to some heroic play in back-to-back tiebreakers.
There were only two breaks of serve over the course of the entire match, setting the stage for not one, but two dramatic tiebreaks. There was no separating the two men in the first extra session as Delpo squeaked out a 9-7 win. But in the second tiebreaker, Almagro got behind early and never recovered.
This is Delpo's first time in the final at Tokyo since 2008, when he lost to Tomas Berdych. This is Raonic's second straight final appearance at the Japan Open. He fell to Kei Nishikori in three sets last year. Needless to say there will be a first-time champion crowned this weekend.
Juan Martin del Potro (1) def. Milos Raonic (3); 7-6 (5), 7-5
Juan Martin del Potro emerged with his third singles title of the 2013 season in two tightly contested sets over 22-year-old Milos Raonic.
It was an entertaining battle between two hard-hitting players. While Raonic is known for his monster serve, Sunday's champion in Tokyo is better known for his powerful groundstrokes, boasting what may be the most powerful forehand in all of men's tennis.
Del Potro maintained patience, saved three break points in the first set and held his own as Raonic's service game remained sharp, resulting in 17 aces for the Canadian.
It wasn't until 5-5 in the second and decisive set when Raonic cracked on serve, being broken to go down 6-5. Del Potro then served out the match, smashing a forehand winner on match point No. 2 to close out the tournament in style.
This triumph moves Del Potro into fifth place in the Race to London standings, where the top eight players qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, while Raonic's solid effort got him to 10th.