Tokyo - Top seed Juan Martin del Potro survived a stiff test to beat Marcos
Baghdatis 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Japan Open on Tuesday
while defending champion Kei Nishikori flirted with disaster before
Nishikori, who became the host country's first
winner of the $1.43 million event last year, had to dig deep to overcome
Austria's Jurgen Melzer 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 under a closed roof in rainswept
Former US Open champion Del Potro looked rusty in his first
match since a shock second-round exit at the New York slam last month.
the giant Argentine shook off the cobwebs and the effects of a 37-hour
flight to the Far East with some typically meaty hitting after dropping
the first set.
The world number seven, a finalist in Tokyo in
2008, secured the crucial break in game eight of the decider after a
period of sustained pressure on the Baghdatis serve.
Del Potro closed out the match with a thunderous forehand down the line to win in a shade over two hours.
Baghdatis, runner-up to Roger Federer in the 2006 Australian Open
final, made del Potro sweat, firing 17 aces, several of them to fend off
"I knew playing Marcos was the worst possible first round," del Potro told reporters.
unseeded. Nobody wants to play him early in the tournament. He plays
very well on hard courts and indoors - the conditions we had today.
"He served well and hit a lot of aces. But I played well in the important moments. I feel ready to go far in the tournament."
Potro, who next faces fellow Argentine Carlos Berlocq, heads the field
in the absence of Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, who pulled out to
undergo minor back surgery.
Fourth seed Nishikori extended his win
streak on the Ariake centre court to nine in Japan Open and Davis Cup
competition but did it the hard way, forced to come back from a set and a
break down against the left-handed Melzer.
In a hole after losing
the first-set tiebreak 7-4 and on the brink of elimination at 5-2 down,
Nishikori battled back superbly and closed out the victory with his
11th ace after two hours and seven minutes.
"There were a few
dangerous moments for me so I'm glad to come through," said the world
number 13, who will play Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the last 16.
"As the defending champion it was good to pull out the win under pressure like that."
Frenchman Gilles Simon, who beat fellow Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to
win his first title of the year in Metz last week, pulled out of his
first-round match against Spain's Marcel Granollers with a groin strain.
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x1) bt Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Tatsuma Ito (JPN) 4-6, 7-5, 6-3
Carlos Berlocq (ARG) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU) 7-6 (7-4), 6-2