01:19 PM GMT October 02, 2018
It's not every day that a tennis player walks on the court without being able to hear out of one ear. But World No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas did that on Tuesday at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 after getting water stuck in his right ear a few days ago.
"I can barely hear anything from my right ear," Tsitsipas said, smiling. "For the past couple of days it’s been a bit strange playing with this, but I played really well despite that problem. One of my goals was getting out on the court and just playing my game, it doesn’t matter if I have this thing in my ear."
Watch Hot Shot: Tsitsipas Picks Forehand Off His Toes
That plan worked well for Tsitsipas, as the fifth seed broke serve four times in the match and lost just four first-serve points (25/29) en route to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over home favourite Taro Daniel in 76 minutes. The #NextGenATP Greek advances to face Frenchman Gilles Simon or fellow #NextGenATP player Alex de Minaur.
"I played percentage tennis. I did everything right on the court. I was just playing right, playing with confidence, believing in my strokes, believing in my decisions most of the time," Tsitsipas said. "I knew that he’s a good player so I had a very, very good start. I was really concentrating in the first games of the match, trying to get breaks, start off the match with as many breaks as I can because I knew he would be fighting and he would give me a hard time. I just needed to execute my game plan as soon as possible."
Another seeded player, No. 8 Richard Gasquet, made a good start to this year’s tournament by defeating American qualifier Denis Kudla 7-6(8), 6-3 to reach the second round.
Gasquet was put in difficulty in the opening set, as World No. 65 Kudla played aggressively off the backhand side to earn four set points in the tie-break. But the French favourite held his nerve to take the lead, and then maintained the one break he earned in the second set to close out his victory in one hour, 36 minutes.
“The first set was very tight. I saved many set points. That made the difference in the match,” Gasquet said. “Of course if he won the first set it’s a completely different match, so that’s why I’m really happy to win this one. We did a lot of running, so it was important to me to win this one and I felt more confident in the second set.”
Gasquet, who made the final here on debut in 2007, arrived in Tokyo having lost three of his previous four tour-level matches. But he bounced back to claim his 29th match win (29-19) of the season. The 32-year-old has had a strong season, winning the Libema Open title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and reaching finals in Montpellier and Bastad. He will face talented Aussie Nick Kyrgios or Shenzhen Open champion Yoshihito Nishioka next for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Also advancing was #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe, who beat German Maximilian Marterer 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 25 minutes. The 20-year-old continues his breakout campaign on the ATP World Tour.
Prior to 2018, Tiafoe had never reached a tour-level quarter-final. But should he oust No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson or Aussie Matthew Ebden in the next round, he will move into the last eight for the fifth time this year. Tiafoe captured his maiden tour-level trophy at the Delray Beach Open in February.