Ryan Harrison recorded his best match win in 13 months on Wednesday to book a spot in the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017 quarter-finals. The American withstood 23 aces from the racquet of Kevin Anderson, the recent US Open finalist, to win 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(2) in just over two hours.
The third set didn’t feature any breaks of serve, before Harrison won the first five points of the tie-break. It was his biggest victory since overcoming then-World No. 6 Milos Raonic in August 2016 in the US Open second round.
Anderson had been looking to add 45 points to his Emirates ATP Race To London tally to move within 10 points of Sam Querrey, who sits at No. 10 and in the last qualification spot for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. Querrey fell in the Tokyo first round to Richard Gasquet on Tuesday.
Harrison will next challenge top seed Marin Cilic, who is bidding to clinch a berth in the English capital for the third time (2014, 2016). The Croatian lost just four of his first-service points and struck 14 aces in a routine 6-3, 6-4 win over Japanese wild card Yasutaka Uchiyama. He is No. 7 in the Emirates ATP Race To London, 45 points behind sixth-placed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who is competing this week at the China Open.
“He played really well, especially in the first six games of the match,” said Cilic. “Overall, I served extremely well today and found first serves when I needed them. There was one break of serve in each set and they proved to be the big difference. I am trying to maintain my focus each match and I feel my game is getting better and better.”
Earlier in the day, fourth seed and last year’s runner-up David Goffin – who features in the bottom half of the Tokyo draw – opened his campaign by hitting 12 aces and relentlessly targeting Spaniard Feliciano Lopez’s backhand in a 7-5, 6-1 first-round win. The Belgian, who is No. 13 in the Emirates ATP Race To London and also hoping to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time, now meets Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden on Thursday. Goffin captured his third ATP World Tour title on Sunday at the Shenzhen Open (d. Dolgopolov).
“It was a good match, never easy when you win a tournament the previous week,” said Goffin. “I’m really happy with the way I played [against Lopez] and I served really well. I think the key was staying calm and I wasn’t nervous.”