Shapovalov Sails Past Noguchi In Tokyo
Denis Shapovalov continues to excel in Asia. The seventh seed has followed up his run to the Seoul final with two dominant wins in Tokyo to advance to the quarter-finals at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.
On Thursday, he breezed past Japanese qualifier Rio Noguchi 6-3, 6-1 to reach his sixth quarter-final of the season and end the 23-year-old Noguchi's debut tournament on the ATP Tour.
"I'm definitely happy to be in the quarters here," Shapovalov said post-match. "I always feel like I bring out some good tennis late in the year, and I'm very happy that's the case again. Hopefully I can keep rolling with it."
The Canadian did not face a break point against Noguchi, taking full advantage of the quick conditions under the closed roof in the Ariake Colosseum.
"The fast court plays well into my game," he added. "I think I've been serving great on this court... we'll try to take advantage this week."
Shapovalov will seek to maintain his strong form as he bids for his first ATP Head2Head win in his third try against Borna Coric. The ninth-seeded Coric also advanced to the quarter-finals on Thursday with a 7-5, 6-2 victory against San Diego champion Brandon Nakashima.
"He's a tricky player for sure," Shapovalov said of Coric. "I've struggled with him in the past. He's been playing some great tennis this season. It's going to be a tough match."
After spending a week quarantining in Seoul, Taylor Fritz arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday just in time to win his opening match — a three-setter against James Duckworth. The American repeated the feat on Thursday, edging Tokyo native Hiroki Moriya 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.
Following his first-round victory, Fritz said that his main concern was his fitness after falling ill with COVID-19 and being in lockdown. But the third seed once again rose to the occasion in the final set to reach his eighth quarter-final of the season.
While he gave a good report on his health following the second-round victory, Fritz said his biggest issue is a lack of practice time as he adapts to the fast conditions in the Ariake Colosseum.
"Physically, I feel good," he said post-match. "It's more just not having been able to practise and play... It's tough for me to feel good about going for my shots and being aggressive. So I guess it's good I'm getting a lot of time on the court."
Thursday's match clocked in at just under two hours, finishing just before 11 p.m., while his Wednesday win lasted one hour and 45 minutes.
The energetic Tokyo crowd played a big role in the late-night match, urging Moriya on as he took the match to his opponent in set two. After losing six straight games to concede the opening set, the home favourite did not face a break point in the second.
"I felt like he really upped his level in the second and he played a lot better," Fritz said. "Things got very close."
Fritz regained control in the third and broke late in the set, but failed to serve out the match at 5-4. Undeterred, he secured his fifth break of the match to clinch victory. After finishing with 14 aces, Fritz is counting on his serve to propel him in his quarter-final showdown with Nick Kyrgios.
"It's going to be a big emphasis on the serve," he said, previewing the matchup. "I'm going to need to serve well, like I did yesterday in my first match. It's going to be close."
Kyrgios defeated Poland's Kamil Majchrzak 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 earlier in the day.
The marquee matchup between Kyrgios and Fritz is scheduled to kick off Friday's evening session, with a start time of not before 6 p.m. The pair, who played three doubles events together in the 2019 season, will meet for just the second time on the singles court. Fritz won their previous ATP Head2Head meeting 6-3, 6-2 in Cincinnati in August.