Main draw action at the ATP 500 event in Tokyo kicked off with five encounters on Monday, with two wins for the home players. Standing on the worst ranking position since February 2014, two-time semi-finalist Marin Cilic is off to a winning start, beating Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 14 minutes for only the 19th victory in 2019.
The Croat hit 28 winners and 23 unforced errors, struggling on the second serve but repelling the only break point he faced to mount the pressure on Sugita who won seven points less than his rival, suffering one break in each set to propel Marin through.
Cilic saved that break chances in the fourth game after a forehand winner, delivering three easy holds after that and breaking Yuichi at love at 4-4 with a backhand crosscourt winner. Taking 12 of the 13 points, Cilic sealed the opener with a service winner in game ten, taking a 6-4 advantage and hoping for more of the same in the rest of the encounter.
There, they stayed neck and neck in the first eight games, just as in the first set before Marin broke at 4-4 after forcing an error from his opponent, forging the crucial lead and moving over the top with four winners in game ten for the place in the second round.
Competing in the main draw in Tokyo since 2005, Go Soeda had 12 straight defeats at home ATP 500 event before changing that today thanks to a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory in two hours and 15 minutes despite winning two points less than the German.
Both players struggled to find the first serve but they both defended service games nicely, with Soeda fending off three out of four break points and earning two breaks from four opportunities to advance into the last 16.
Jan-Lennard made the best possible start, dropping two points on serve in the first set and stealing the Japanese's serve at 2-2 before closing the set with three powerful holds. Nothing could have separated them in set number two after wasting a couple of break chances in games one and two, reaching a tie break that Soeda won 7-4 to remain in contention, gathering momentum and losing only five points behind the initial shot to keep the pressure on Struff.
The German couldn't deal with it, getting broken in games one and nine to push Soeda towards the first triumph at the ATP events since Washington 2015! Another home star Yoshihito Nishioka ousted Joao Sousa 7-5, 6-3 in an hour and 26 minutes, playing well on serve to give serve away only once and pushing the opponent to the limits on the second serve to break him thrice from nine chances.
Sousa grabbed the first break in the ninth game, serving for the opener before Nishioka bounced back to take three straight games and steal the set 7-5. The Japanese had the upper hand in set number two, securing a break in game six and fending off a break point at 5-3 to seal the deal and advance into the next round.
The 5th seed Lucas Pouille toppled Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-3 in shift an hour and 14 minutes, repelling the only break point he had to play against and delivering one solid return game in each set to make a winning start and move towards the last 16.
Lucas sailed through his service games in the first set, waiting for the opportunity on the return and getting it at 5-4 when Hubert lost serve and the opener. Nothing changed in set number two and this time Hurkacz erased five break points to stay in touch until 3-4 when Pouille broke him with a perfect crosscourt winner, saving a break chance in the next game with a service winner and clinching the triumph with a backhand down the line winner.
Hyeon Chung defeated Lorenzo Sonego 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 11 minutes, facing one break point that cost him the opening set and keeping everything under control in sets two and three for a much-needed win on te comeback trail.