Munar Stuns Ruud In Tokyo
The Spaniard's 6-3, 6-3 victory over the US Open finalist is his second Top 10 win in 13 attempts, with his previous triumph coming in 2019 against then-World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in Marrakech. Ruud reached a career-high of No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following his US Open final run, but dropped to No. 3 on Monday.
"I think it's one of the best [wins of my career]," Munar said post-match. "Casper is a great player. We all know that maybe this is not his best surface, not even mine. But I managed to play the tennis I needed to play today.
"I think it wasn't a great match but from my side I did what I needed to do. Very happy to be through. Casper is one of the best players in the world right now."
Munar struck early in both sets against an out-of-sorts Ruud, racing to a 5-1 lead in the opening set and taking command with an instant break in the second.
Ruud would make his move soon after, creating a break point at 2-1 and a 0/40 opening at 2-3, but Munar had the answer on both occasions. At 4-3, Munar escaped a three-deuce game before he clinched the match with his fourth break.
"I couldn't find the level I needed to today," said Ruud. "I wasn't able to get my feet going or the game going. If I want to play well I need to move well, and that wasn't the case today.
"[There are] many things that I can make excuses about, but at the end it was not my day and Jaume was the better player, and you saw it clearly in the score."
The Croatian would have been pleased to avoid one of the ATP record nine Japanese players in the draw in his first round — Coric lost to home favourite Kei Nishikori (2015) and Taro Daniel (2019) in his previous two Tokyo appearances, both in three sets.
"I was hoping that I'm not going to play a Japanese player this time," he said with a smile post-match. But Australia's Kokkinakis provided strong opposition in a two-hour match that saw just a single break of serve.
"I do feel tired a little bit, to be honest," Coric added. "It was a very tough match, it was very hot out there. I was sweating a lot. Also towards the end I think we had a 30-ball rally. It was just very tight, also stressful, so I'm just happy to be through."
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Six weeks after winning the biggest title of his career in Cincinnati, Coric made a confident start in his first ATP Head2Head meeting with Kokkinakis, breaking in the third game of the match. He saved a break point as he served out the opening set, but could not convert on his lone break chance of the second set, which came in a five-deuce game — the longest of the match.
After missing 12 months of action from March 2021 to March 2022 following right-shoulder surgery, Coric supercharged his comeback in Cincinnati, but still must play through occasional pain.
"I do feel good. I can play tennis and extra training, way more than I was before the surgery," he said. "Still I have sometimes a little pain and I need to manage that. But I can play. A little bit of pain, sometimes I think that's fine.
"I'm not very young anymore so I need to be ready to have some pain sometimes, If that's what it takes, I'm fine with it."
Kokkinakis was making his Tokyo main-draw debut, having lost in qualifying in 2014.
In Tuesday's opening match in the Ariake Colosseum, Soonwoo Kwon put forth a dominant performance in a 6-3, 6-2 upset of sixth seed Alex de Minaur. The South Korean did not face a break point and converted on four of his 12 break chances to secure an efficient victory in 76 minutes.
From 2-3 in the opening set, Kwon won 10 of the last 12 games to advance to the second round, where he will face Mackenzie McDonald. The American defeated Japanese wild card Kaichi Uchida 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-3 in the day's first match in Rakuten Mobile Arena.
Kwon won his first ATP Tour title just more than one year ago in Astana, but is seeking his first trip to the third round this season on the ATP Tour. The World No. 120 has reached the second round at 15 tour-level events on the year.