Kokkinakis/Kyrgios Overpower Nishioka/Uchida In Tokyo
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios made the most of an unexpected appearance in the Ariake Colosseum with a dominant doubles victory on Wednesday night at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.
Originally scheduled for Tokyo's second stadium, the Aussies' matchup against Japanese wild cards Yoshihito Nishioka and Kaichi Uchida was moved to the roofed centre stage after persistent rain. The top seeds thrived under the spotlight and did not face a break point as they cruised through, 6-1, 6-2.
The reigning Australian Open and Atlanta champions are seeking their third title of the season as they step up their bid to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. The pair is currently seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, with a place in the top eight needed to guarantee a spot in Turin.
"Hopefully we can continue our doubles form," said Kyrgios after the duo's 47-minute win. "We've had a great year. We won the Australian Open. I see a lot of Australian fans and people that want us to do well, so we'll continue to do well for you guys and have some fun."
Also fighting for a spot in the year-end event is another Australian duo — the second-seeded team of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell. This year's Wimbledon titlists opened their Tokyo campaign with a 6-2, 7-6(4) win against Alexei Popyrin and Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Third seeds Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez also advanced, courtesy of a 7-6(5), 6-4 decision against Hans Hach Verdugo and Miomir Kecmanovic, while Alex de Minaur and Frances Tiafoe bowed out with a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to Mackenzie McDonald and Marcelo Melo.
Wednesday's lone doubles contest to require a Match Tie-break was the first match on. Americans Brandon Nakashima and Hunter Reese survived with a 4-6, 6-1, 10-2 win against France's Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul.
Puetz/Venus Save 2 MPs To Advance In Astana
Tim Puetz and Michael Venus began their Astana Open campaign with a win, but the top seeds were pushed all the way in a nail-biting first-round clash against Santiago Gonzalez and Lukasz Kubot.
The German-Kiwi pairing saved two match points in the second-set tie-break, reeling off four consecutive points from 4/6 to force a Match Tie-break at the ATP 500 event in Kazakhstan. Puetz and Venus carried that momentum into the decider, racing to a 9/2 lead before sealing victory in two hours and 12 minutes.
The turnaround in Astana could ultimately prove crucial for Puetz and Venus’ chances of qualifying for November’s Nitto ATP Finals. The duo is currently eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings as they seek to reach the season finale for the first time as a team.
Second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic had no such trouble in their opening match, downing Tel Aviv champions Rohan Bopanna and Matwe Middelkoop 7-6(3), 6-2 on their tournament debut. There was also a straight-sets win for Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, who defeated Francisco Cerundolo and Andres Molteni 6-4, 6-4, while Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini overcame home pairing Alexander Bublik and Beibit Zhukayev 6-4, 6-2.