Djokovic Faces Dangerous Draw In Tokyo
Serbian shares top half of the draw with third seed Goffin
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is making his debut at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, and he is being welcomed with a slew of potentially dangerous matches.
The top seed, who has won titles at the Australian Open, Madrid and Wimbledon this year, will play a qualifier in the opening round. Then the Serbian could face big-hitting Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round if the German ousts home favourite Go Soeda, a wild card, in his own opener.
Djokovic owns a 2-0 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Struff, but the World No. 38 has enjoyed his most successful year yet, earning four of his six victories against players inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings in 2019. Struff upset Marin Cilic en route to the quarter-finals in Tokyo one year ago.
Japanese No. 2 Yoshihito Nishioka is in Djokovic’s section of the draw, and the first seed the World No. 1 can face is fifth seed Lucas Pouille, who made this year’s Australian Open semi-finals. 2017 Tokyo champion David Goffin — who opens against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta — and two-time semi-finalist and sixth seed Marin Cilic — who begins his run against Japanese wild card Yuichi Sugita — are in Djokovic’s half.
Leading the bottom half is second seed Borna Coric, who lost his only previous match in Tokyo four years ago, when he was only 18, against Kei Nishikori. The Croat plays Japanese wild card Taro Daniel, whom he has never faced, in the first round.
Looming in the quarter-finals for the World No. 14 could be eighth seed Alex de Minaur. The Australian is in good form, battling past Coric in three sets in the Zhuhai quarter-finals on Friday evening. The other seeds on the bottom half are No. 4 Benoit Paire of France and No. 7 Taylor Fritz of the United States.
There are several intriguing first-round matches, including a battle between two Next Gen ATP Finals contenders. Canadian Denis Shapovalov will begin his tournament against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, whom he ousted in straight sets in Winston-Salem. Shapovalov will look to blast through Kecmanovic’s solid baseline game once again, with both men trying to earn as many points as they can to make a push for Milan.
Fritz and fellow American Reilly Opelka, who are close friends, will also battle in the first round. Both men have claimed their first ATP Tour title this season, with Fritz doing so in Eastbourne and Opelka achieving the feat at New York’s ATP 250 event.
Did You Know?
Outside of Djokovic, the rest of the ‘Big Four’ have lifted the trophy in Tokyo. Roger Federer was victorious in 2006, Rafael Nadal triumphed in 2010 and Andy Murray earned the title here in 2011. Djokovic will try to join the club in his tournament debut.