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Denis Shapovalov advances past Steve Johnson at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

Tokyo Take-Off! Shapovalov Serves Past Johnson

Canadian to face home qualifier Noguchi in second round

Denis Shapovalov did not let the disappointment of losing Sunday's Seoul final linger. Making a quick transition to the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, the Canadian rode a near-perfect serving performance to victory against Steve Johnson on Wednesday.

In a 6-3, 7-6(3) win, the seventh seed lost just one point on first serve, firing 11 aces as he won 37 of 38 points behind his first delivery. He was further aided by making 76 per cent of his first serves and did not face a break point in the first-round encounter.

"[This was] definitely one of my best serving matches," Shapovalov assessed. "I kind of felt like I needed to against Steve. Obviously if I'm giving him a lot of looks on second serves, then he's going to capitalise and put a lot of pressure. I'm very happy with my serving performance today and hopefully I can keep it up throughout the week.

"The courts are playing pretty quickly, so if you're putting a lot of first serves in, I think the percentage to win the point is really high here."

Shapovalov avoided the Tokyo fate of his Seoul final opponent, Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, who lost earlier in the day as he struggled with his energy levels and the new conditions after the short adjustment period.

"I feel good," the Canadian said. "I've had this experience a couple times already, playing the week after making a final and having a quick turnaround.

"In general, I think the most important thing for me is to feel mentally fresh. The body has always been feeling good, knock on wood. I feel good mentally, very motivated. When you do lose in a final it almost motivates you a little bit more than winning, to play the next week.

"I was fighting like crazy today. I had to against Steve and will continue to do so the rest of the week."

A 2018 semi-finalist in Tokyo, Shapovalov will next face Japanese qualifier Rio Noguchi for a place in the quarters.

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