De Minaur, Fritz Advance In Tokyo, Increase Turin Chances

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Alex de Minaur and Taylor Fritz boosted their Nitto ATP Finals qualification chances on Tuesday at the Kinoshita Group Japan Open Championships, where they both earned first-round wins.

Australian De Minaur came through a hard-fought battle against British lefty Jack Draper, advancing 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(1) in three hours and four minutes.

De Minaur rallied from a break down in the second set and broke qualifier Draper's serve when the 21-year-old was trying to close out the match at 5-4 in the third set. The World No. 13 locked in from the baseline and started to pull the tiring Draper from corner to corner to improve to 13-4 in opening-round matches this year.

“I think whenever someone is struggling at the end it makes it much harder to finish off,” De Minaur said. “Because you can't focus on what you want to and you just try to make him play as many balls as possible and then he was just playing free. I think this match was won on attitude and fitness. Happy to get the win and still be alive.”

De Minaur, who now leads Draper 2-0 in the pair's Lexus ATP Head2Head series, is 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin on 2,515 points. He is 595 points behind eighth-placed Holger Rune, who occupies the final qualification spot.

Chasing his second title of the season, De Minaur will need a deep run in Tokyo to further increase his chances of making his debut at the prestigious year-end event. The fourth seed will next face Diego Schwartzman after the Argentine earned his 250th tour-level win.

Schwartzman produced a rock-solid display to down countryman Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 21 minutes, backing up his run to the fourth-round in Shanghai last week.

Diego Schwartzman
Photo Credit: ATP Tour
Top seed Fritz followed De Minaur onto court and moved past Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-3 in the latest chapter of the pair's long-running Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry.

The American is the defending champion at the ATP 500 hard-court event and made a quick start to his title defence, firing 13 aces in a strong serving performance to advance after one hour and 21 minutes. Fritz now leads Norrie 7-6, with all 13 meetings coming on hard courts.

“It was really close to lose the first set. I was thinking it was going to be a three setter,” Fritz said. “I was lucky to get the break back in the first and then I felt my level picked up and I started playing a lot more smoothly.”

Fritz is four places above De Minaur in ninth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, 145 points behind Rune. The 25-year-old, who reached the semi-finals on debut in Turin last year, is one of five players to earn more than 50 wins this year, with his victory against Norrie his 52nd.

Fritz will next meet Japanese wild card Shintaro Mochizuki or Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

In other action, Cristian Garin beat Japan wild card Sho Shimabukuro 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while Alexei Popyrin upset Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-2.

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