Djokovic beats Millman in straight sets to win Japan Open

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TOKYO — Novak Djokovic couldn’t have asked for a better tournament debut in Tokyo.

Playing in the Japanese capital for the first time, Djokovic beat Australian qualifier John Millman 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Japan Open on Sunday, marking the 10th time the Serbian has lifted a trophy on his main draw debut at a tour-level event.

The top-ranked Serb did not drop a set in his five matches at Ariake Colosseum with the closest set, 7-5, coming against home favorite Go Soeda in the second round. In his final three matches, against fifth-seeded Lucas Pouille, third-seeded David Goffin and Millman – all of whom have made a Grand Slam quarterfinal – Djokovic lost a total of 15 games.

“I didn’t drop a set all week so I played fantastic tennis,” said Djokovic who will next play in Shanghai. “There are not many negatives here that I can point out so I’m going to Shanghai with great confidence and hope I can finish the year in style.”

Sunday’s final followed a familiar pattern to his previous matches here with Djokovic breaking Millman to go up 3-1 in the first set with a perfectly placed forehand volley to the corner.

“Obviously the key was to try to fight off the resistance early in the match because he didn’t have much to lose playing finals from qualifications,” Djokovic said. “He came out and played pretty well but I made that crucial break and I was serving very well which allowed me to get a set advantage.”

The second set was even more dominant as Djokovic broke his opponent twice to go up 3-0 then held serve the rest of the way.

Djokovic lost only four first-serve points and hit six aces.

Djokovic retired with a left-shoulder injury during his fourth-round match against Stan Wawrinka at the U.S. Open but has shown no lingering effects in Tokyo.

“I didn’t know until one week before the start of this tournament that I would be here,” Djokovic said. “That’s when I made a decision with my team that I was ready to play.”

The 32-year-old Serb is making a push to finish as year-end No. 1 for the sixth time, which would tie the mark held by Pete Sampras.

Djokovic now stands alone in third place on the ATP Tour this year with 46 tour-level wins, breaking a tie with Roger Federer. The only players ahead of him are Daniil Medvedev (54) and Rafael Nadal (48).

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.