Muller downs weary Berdych in first round of Japan Open
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 05, 2016 05:50 PM
Gilles Muller of Luxembourg returns a shot against Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic during their singles match at the Japan Open menís tennis tournament in Tokyo, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
DAVID HULMES, Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Third seed Tomas Berdych crashed out of the Japan Open on Wednesday, beaten 7-6(7), 6-1 by Luxembourg's Gilles Muller in the first round.
A weary Berdych squandered three break points in the sixth game then failed to convert a set-point in the first tiebreaker.
After falling 3-0 behind in the second set, the Czech called for his trainer to treat a left glute problem, but was unable to stop Muller, who fired down 12 aces, from winning the contest.
"I had chances in the first set, especially the game where I was 40-0," said Berdych.
"I lost the game and he started to play much better, and I have to say that, at the beginning of the second set, my body gave me a bit of a sign I've been playing a little too much tennis in the last couple of weeks."
Muller, ranked 36 in the world, remained patient throughout the match, then seized his opportunities when they came.
"At the beginning of the match he was hitting a lot of winners close to the line so I just tried to hang in there, wait for my chance," said Muller.
"Then I saved three break points at 2-3, and from then I had a good rhythm on my serve. I had the break right at the second set and that always helps."
Muller's next opponent in the second round is Marcos Baghdatis, the former Australian Open finalist struggling to get back to his absolute best.
"Marcos is better than his ranking," Muller said.
"I've known him for a long time, we played juniors together and practised in the same academy back then. He's a good friend of mine and that makes it a bit tougher."
Berdych captured his first title of the season when he retained his Shenzhen Open crown in China on Sunday but his opening round defeat in Tokyo has dented his hopes of reaching next month's ATP Tour World Finals. Restricted to the top eight players, he currently sits ninth in the ATP Race to London points table.
Croatia's Marin Cilic, seeded fourth rallied to defeat Spanish baseliner Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, becoming the first player to reach the third round.
When they finished their match, both Berdych and Muller were asked about Maria Sharapova's successful appeal to have her two-year doping ban reduced to 15 months.
"What do I feel about that? I think anyone who gives a positive test should get punished," Muller said. "Should they get a reduction? I don't think so in general. It shows other sportsmen that, at the end of the day, the punishment is not going to be that big."
The Court of Arbitration for Sport cut nine months off the suspension imposed on Sharapova, who tested positive for the banned heart medication meldonium at the Australian Open in January. The sports court that found the Russian star bore no "significant fault" for her positive drug test and did not intend to cheat.
Berdych said players knew they had to be very careful about any medications they took.
"Every single time I have to take something, I check many times with many different people," he said.
"At the end, you are the player, you are the athlete, and you are the one who's going to be tested. I always check whatever I take because I'm the one who will go for the (doping) control."