The Davis Cup semi-finals see world number one Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal back in action for national sides.
|Rafael Nadal returns to singles action with a first round victory over Go Soeda at the Japan Open [GALLO/GETTY]|
The Spanish duo of defending champion Rafael Nadal and former winner David Ferrer crushed local hopes on Tuesday to make the second round of the Japan Open.
World number two Nadal, playing his first singles tournament since finishing as runner-up to Novak Djokovic at last month’s US Open, opened his bid in style, thumping Japan’s Go Soeda 6-3, 6-2.
After taking the first set with ease, Nadal took a 3-1 lead in the second set when Soeda double faulted on a break point, before taking a 5-2 lead and winning on his first match point.
“I was playing well but the ball was a bit heavy from the baseline,” said Nadal, 25, the top seed in Tokyo.
“It was difficult to hit top spin. Hopefully I can improve. I had a good feeling, but I still need to play longer, especially with my forehand.”
“It was a very difficult match and I’m very happy to beat him. Tokyo is a special place for me. I have very good memories here”
The 2007 champion Ferrer avenged his loss to Japan’s Kei Nishikori at the US Open three years ago with a straightforward 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Nishikori was the first player to hold his serve, in the fourth game of the first set, for a 3-1 lead but Ferrer hit back, winning three games in a row before going on to take the set.
The world number five was never in trouble in the second set, forcing the only break in the sixth game.
“It was a very difficult match and I’m very happy to beat him. Tokyo is a special place for me. I have very good memories here,” said Ferrer.
“Nishikori beat me in 2008, but I think every match is different. He had bad luck. He missed one year due to injury and he is coming back. I think he is going to be a better player than in this moment.
“The two sets were very tough. I played very good and my first serve was the key at an important moment,” said the third seed.
In the second round, Nadal will play Canadian Milos Raonic, who beat Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1).
Ferrer will play Australia’s Matthew Ebden, who defeated Spain’s Pablo Andujar on Monday.