In the wee hours of the day on this side of the planet, the tournaments in Tokyo and Beijing reached their conclusion, and two of the finals that were played wrote new pages in the history books, with the wins of Kei Nishikori (in Tokyo) and Mike Bryan (in Beijing).
The first in 40 years
The Rakuten Open was celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and if the longest-running ATP event in Asia had, throughout its history, as illustrious winners as Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, and Roger Federer, to name only a few, it never even had a finalist from Japan… until this year.
In fact, Kei Nishikori’s quarter-final win over Tomas Berdych was already a first for a Japanese at the tournament, as never until this year a local had even reached the semi-finals. In the end, Nishikori made the tournament’s anniversary a fairy tale for the locals, as not only did he reach the final, he also won in.
In the final, Nishikori was facing n° 6 seed Milos Raonic, in the youngest final of the ATP Tour this season (Nishikori is 22 and Raonic, 21). As it was the first career meeting between the two players, it was difficult to have an idea of how the match would go, but it was sure to be a good fight.
A battle it turned out to be, at least for the first two sets. The Japanese took the advantage in the first, 7-5 in the tiebreak. However, the young Canadian fought back to take the second, 6-3, and force a decisive third, where Nishikori was simply too much for him.
Just like Andy Murray did in New York a month ago, Nishikori started reading Raonic’s serve better and to return and play like the inspired man he was, running quickly away with the set, and earning his first ATP500 crown, 7-6(5) 3-6 6-0 in 2:08.
This title is Nishikori’s second, the first one being four and a half years ago (Delray Beach 2008), in his first final since Basel last year, where he lost to Roger Federer. In a young career marred by injuries, this season is really a dream for the talented Japanese, and this title won at home, in front of his people, might very well mark the beginning of great things for him.
Mike Bryan passes Todd Woodbridge in Beijing
The best doubles team in the world was in the finals once again in Beijing, where they won every time they reached that stage of the tournament (2009, 2010), and where they had lost in the semi-finals last year.
In this decisive match, they were facing the surprise of the doubles tournament, Carlos Berlocq and Denis Istomin. Berlocq and Istomin, on their way to the finals, defeated successively n° 2 seeds Max Mirnyi/Daniel Nestor, Mahesh Bhupathi/Rohan Bopanna, and Colin Fleming/Ross Hutchins, all very tough teams.
The dream run of the Argentine and the Uzbek came to an end, as the Bryan brothers topped them 6-3 6-2 in 57 minutes to win their seventh title of the season, and their third China Open in four participations.
This title was the team’s 82nd, but Mike’s 84th, which made him pass Todd Woodbridge as sole record holder for the number of titles won in the Open Era, for Mike had taken two tournaments without his twin back in 2002, when he won in Nottingham with Mark Knowles, and in Long Island later that year with Mahesh Bhupathi.
Three in three for Djokovic
In the China Open singles final, Novak Djokovic was taking on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to try and win his third title in as many participations in the tournament.
The Frenchman took a break lead in the first set, but once the World n° 2 recuperated the break, there was no turning back for him, and the Serbian flew to a 7-6(4) 6-2 win, taking his third Beijing title and remaining undefeated in the Chinese capital (2009, 2010, 2012).
With this title, Djokovic also increases his lead over Roger Federer in the Race (year-to-date) to 1,490 points, and reduces his deficit over him in the ATP rankings, making the battle for the number one spot even tighter, especially knowing that the Swiss has many points to defend until the end of the season.
The first round has started in Shanghai
At the Shanghai Rolex Masters, Sunday marked the end of the qualifications, and the start of the first round, as three main draw matches were played.
Fernando Verdasco set up an interesting second-round clash with n° 7 seed Juan Mónaco by defeating Go Soeda, 6-2 6-4. Philipp Kohlschreiber edged Ryan Harrison, 6-4 6-4 and, to complete the day, Martin Klizan won the battle of the young lefties by taking out Thomaz Bellucci, 6-3 6-4.
Before those three matches were played, the qualifications were completed to find out the seven players who would enter the main draw.
There were a couple of upsets, but only one real surprise marked the last round of qualifications, as Alex Bogomolov Jr had the better of fourth seed Guillermo García-López, 7-6(6) 6-4.
In the other matches:
-  Marinko Matosevic d.  Sergiy Stakhovsky, 6-3 4-6 6-1
-  Philipp Petzschner d. Marius Copil, 6-0 7-6(3)
-  Brian Baker d.  Grega Zemlja, 6-1 7-5
-  Yen-Hsun Lu d.  Danai Udomchoke, 6-3 6-2
-  Michael Berrer d.  Tatsuma Ito, 7-6(3) 6-1 (an upset, but not a surprise)
-  Lukasz Kubot d. Jimmy Wang, 6-4 6-2
In the main draw, the matches featuring qualifiers will be the following:
- Yen-Hsun Lu vs [WC] Zhang Ze (winner to face Roger Federer)
- Lukasz Kubot vs  Marin Cilic (winner to face Martin Klizan)
- Brian Baker vs  Richard Gasquet
- Philipp Petzschner vs Benoit Paire
- Marinko Matosevic vs  Milos Raonic
- Michael Berrer vs Andreas Seppi
- Alex Bogomolov Jr vs Tommy Robredo
The first round will continue on Monday, starting at 13:00 local (1:00 ET), and will have live Stadium and Grandstand streaming for all the matches, which begin at 14:00 local (2:00 ET).