Osaka Mayor's Cup Underway in Japan
12 Oct 2005 - Helen McFetridge
With most of the world’s top juniors having taken a break or turned their attentions towards improving their professional rankings since the US Open, the race for the year-end top spots got underway again this week in Osaka, Japan, with the Grade A Osaka Mayor’s Cup – World Super Junior Tennis Championships. With two Grade A events left to play in 2005, everything could change at the top of the rankings by the end of the year, and many of the world’s best junior players are here in search of vital points.
In the girls’ event, Viktoria Azarenka will be looking to cement her place as year-end number one as she goes after her third Grade A title of 2005. She made an excellent start to her campaign with an emphatic 60 60 win over Japan’s Juri Fukushima in the first round, but she was not the only one to get off to a flying start. The top five seeds in the girls’ singles lost just five games between them in the first round, with local favourite Ayumi Morita, seeded four, and Russian fifth seed Maria Mosolova both winning 60 60 against Yoko Arai and Ayumi Yoshida respectively. Others aiming to challenge Azarenka in the latter stages of the tournament are second seed Caroline Wozniacki (DEN), a 60 62 winner over Japan’s Miho Ishida, and third seeded Romanian Raluca Olaru, who came through 61 62 against Swiss player Stéphanie Vogèle. All in all, it was a successful start to the tournament for the girls’ seeds, as all 16 went through to round two.
In the second round, it was more of the same from the top seeds as Azarenka brushed aside Saori Karikomi 62 60 and Wozniacki defeated Katarina Tuohimaa without any problems, 61 63. Mosolova, in contrast to her first-round whitewash, had to recover from a disastrous start before edging past Yurina Koshino 16 76(4) 64. Two other seeds, however, didn't make it into the last 16, with number seven Stéphanie Herz (NED) crashing out 76(3) 62 to Shiho Akita and Emiko Ito, seeded 13, eventually succumbing 36 62 76(2) to fellow countrywoman Mahiko Kozawa.
The boys’ singles features two players hoping to close the gap on Donald Young at the top of the world rankings, with both France’s Jérémy Chardy and Croatian Marin Cilic hoping to take advantage of the fact that Young and world number two Ryan Sweeting are playing in the Pan-American Closed Championships in the USA this week rather than in Osaka. Top seed Chardy, the world number 3, had a straightforward win over Yuya Tomisaki in round one, while second seed Cilic, ranked two spots and just 26.5 points behind him, was stretched in the first set against Fumiaki Kita before coming through 75 62.
With no other members of the top twenty in action in Osaka, Chardy and Cilic are strong favourites to meet in the final. However, several lower ranked players will be keen to take advantage of the lack of stars and get the chance to give their ranking a boost, none more so than ninth seeded Japanese 15-year-old Kei Nishikori. Nishikori has yet to get beyond the last 16 of a Grade A event, but he will be hoping to go a few rounds better here in front of the Japanese fans. He made an impressive start with a 60 61 win over fellow Japanese Shuichi Sekiguchi, and will be hoping to continue his good form in the next round. He also had a successful start to his doubles campaign, partnering Junn Mitsuhashi to victory over the second seeds James Lemke and Jeevan Neduncheziyan and following it up with another win to reach the quarter-finals. The highest Japanese seed in the boys' singles, number six Sho Aida, also came through his first match unscathed, 63 62 over Hiromasa Oku.
There was not such good news for another Japanese seed in the boys’ singles, as number 13 Shuhei Uzawa was defeated 16 64 60 by his countryman Genki Tomita. Another seed to fall in the opening round was number eight Alberto Gonzalez of Panama, who went down 61 67 (12) 62 to Yuuichi Sugita.