Struff Bounces Back From Tokyo Singles Heartbreak In Doubles With McLachlan
Marach and Pavic save two match points in Beijing quarter-finals
Jan-Lennard Struff suffered a devastating defeat in singles on Friday, failing to convert match point before ultimately losing to #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov. But the German kept his head up on the doubles court later in the day and he was rewarded.
Struff and Ben McLachlan, half of last year’s winning team (w/ Uchiyama) in Tokyo, beat Dutchmen Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018.
“I’m very happy. We played a great match. It was very tough after losing the singles today,” Struff said. “I’m very happy that we played decent and with energy from the beginning, and now really looking forward to the final.”
It is the pair’s fifth tour-level semi-final of the season as a pair, including a trip to the last four at the Australian Open and in Miami. McLachlan and Struff also reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
“I’m pretty happy that we got into the final. It’s been a good week so far,” Struff said. “Let’s see what the final brings. It will be a new match and we will give everything to win the title.”
On paper, it appeared the semi-final would be a nail-biter. Haase and Middelkoop have won three ATP World Tour titles in Pune, Sofia and Umag this year. But the winners saved all four break points they faced to come out victorious.
“We played really well. They’re a very tough team,” McLachlan said. “I’ve played Robin a couple of times and played with Matwe before, they’re both tough players, so really happy to get through that in straight sets.”
In the final, McLachlan and Struff will face No. 3 seeds Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus or Joe Salisbury and Yasutaka Uchiyama. Salisbury triumphed with McLachlan in Shenzhen last week and McLachlan partnered Uchiyama to the title in Tokyo last year.
“For me, it doesn’t really matter who we play,” Struff said. “We’ll try to win.”
At the China Open in Beijing, top seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic saved two match points to edge past Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof 5-7, 7-6(4), 14-12 in just under two hours. Marach and Pavic, who have already qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals at London in November, saved match points at 9/10 and 12/11 in the Match tie-break.
Read & Watch: King Of Tokyo Tie-breaks Gasquet Ousts Anderson
The 2007 finalist will next challenge home favourite Nishikori
Richard Gasquet is showing form reminiscent of his time in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings this week in Tokyo, with no performance more impressive than his 7-6(6), 7-6(4) victory over No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018.
“It was a great match, I played well. It was really intense, every single point. I played my best level. You need to play very good when you are facing Kevin,” Gasquet said. “I played two incredible tie-breaks, that’s why I think I won the match. I’m very happy with the way I played.”
There was plenty on the line for Anderson, who began the week in eighth in the ATP Race To London, as the South African is trying to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. But Gasquet was strong on his first serve — winning 80 per cent of those points — and was aggressive under pressure in the tie-breaks to seal his one-hour, 56-minute victory.
Gasquet has now won five of his six sets this week in Tokyo in tie-breaks to reach the last four at the event for the first time since 2008.
“I don’t know exactly why. Sometimes it just happens,” Gasquet said of his tie-break prowess so far this tournament. “Of course I’m playing well, I’m serving well. I played five great tie-breaks, that’s why I’ve won the matches. The court is very fast, of course you have to be ready for it. Four tie-breaks in a row, it’s crazy.”
The Frenchman has already captured one title this season at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. And if he should go on to lift the trophy here for the first time, Gasquet is projected to reenter the Top 20 for the first time since March 2017.
“I’m playing well. I’m free of injuries. I can play well, I can practise, that’s why I’m playing this level. Of course I’m winning tough tie-breaks this week. That’s great for me. Of course i’m serving well. I’m not making bad mistakes and I was offensive at the end of the match to close it.”
You May Also Like: Read & Watch: Nishikori Impressive In Win Over #NextGenATP Star Tsitsipas
Next up for Gasquet is home favourite Kei Nishikori, who is pursuing his third triumph in Tokyo. While the Japanese has been in strong form, advancing to the semi-finals at the US Open and the Moselle Open as well, Gasquet has won seven of their nine FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
“He’s one of the best players in the world, no doubt about it,” Gasquet said. “I know him. I know he’s playing great. I have nothing to lose, it will be a great match for me. I’ll have to play at my best level.”
US Open champion Naomi Osaka apologised to Zhang Shuai for an emotional display in beating the Chinese in Beijing.
The 20-year-old Japanese was close to tears at points in her 3-6 6-4 7-5 win in the China Open quarter-finals.
Osaka wept in the wake of her US Open win, overshadowed by Serena Williams’ confrontation with umpire Carlos Ramos, and was again facing a crowd favourite.
“I was basically apologising because I feel I was more emotional than I normally try to be,” said Osaka.
Asked the cause of her emotion, she said: “Because it was a hard match. That’s basically why.”
Unseeded Zhang took advantage of a string of early errors to take the first set and was a break up in the second before being reeled in by world number six Osaka, who will play Latvia’s unseeded Anastasija Sevastova in the next round.