If his first two matches in his Tokyo debut are any indication, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has brushed aside any left shoulder injury concerns that might have carried over from his fourth-round retirement at the US Open. Finding Go Soeda across the net for the first time, Djokovic unleased 10 aces in defeating the wild card, 6-3, 7-5, on Wednesday.
The Serbian's lone mishap came when serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set, when a double fault set up two break points for Soeda, who converted on his first opportunity. Soeda stepped up to save three match points and delivered a brilliant defensive backhand slice pass en route to leveling for 5-all. Djokovic quickly reset to win the final eight points of the match to close out the victory in one hour and 35 minutes.
Djokovic is looking to claim his first title since raising his 16th major trophy at Wimbledon, where he saved two championship points before denying Roger Federer in a fifth set tiebreaker. This week, the 32-year-old surpassed Ivan Lendl for third on the all-time list with his 271st week atop the ATP rankings.
In first-round action, former champion David Goffin saved three match points, turning the tables for a 1-6, 7-6 (8), 6-0 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. The pair were facing off for the third time in four tournaments, with Goffin prevailing at the US Open and the Spaniard getting revenge three weeks later in Metz.
Carreno Busta entered the ATP 500 event in Japan on the back of winning his first ATP singles title in more than two years following his triumph in Chengdu. He led Goffin 4-2 in the second set, and controlled the bulk of the ensuing tiebreaker before the Belgian mounted his comeback. Goffin carried his momentum over to the decider, converting all three of his break points to wrap up the victory in two hours and 18 minutes.
Goffin is aiming to lift his first trophy since triumphing in Tokyo two years ago. In August, he contested his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Cincinnati, finishing runner-up to the in-form Daniil Medvedev. The 28-year-old will take on Denis Shapovalov in the second round.