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Japan Open 2023: Wild card Mochizuki stuns top seed Fritz

Defending champion Taylor Fritz said he could not cope with an “incredible” turnaround from world number 215 Shintaro Mochizuki as he crashed out of the Japan Open with a stunning second-round loss on Thursday.

Top-seed Fritz, the highest-ranked American in the world at number 10, lost 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) to the Japanese wild card, who went into the tournament without a tour-level win to his name.

Fritz, who has won two titles this season, looked to be cruising into the quarter-finals when he took the first set to love in just 29 minutes.

But the momentum shifted midway through the second set when Mochizuki broke serve, and the 20-year-old fought back from a losing position in the third to force a tiebreaker and claim the win.

“It was all smooth and then I had the chance to break in the second, didn’t get it and then after that I feel like he was playing incredible tennis,” said Fritz. “He served really well, he was constantly hitting the lines with his serve — it was tough for me to attack.”

Mochizuki, who qualified for his first Grand Slam appearance at Wimbledon this year, said he was “trying not to be nervous but I was” in his first match against a top-10 player.

He loosened up in the second set and Fritz said his opponent performed “at the level of a top player for the next two sets”.

“I never really got time to set up and attack or feel comfortable after he started playing better,” said the American. “It felt like I could have served better but outside of that I don’t think there was much I could do.”

Mochizuki quickly took control in the tiebreaker and closed the match out with a volleyed smash at the net to delight the Tokyo crowd.

His quarter-final opponent will be Australian Alexei Popyrin, who beat Chile’s Cristian Garin 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.

“If I couldn’t play my best, I knew that I couldn’t beat Fritz for sure,” said Mochizuki. “So I just tried to focus on myself and give 100 per cent from the second set.”

Fritz’s exit meant the top three seeds in Tokyo have all been eliminated, with Norwegian number two Casper Ruud and German number three Alexander Zverev also bowing out early.

De Minaur advances

Number four seed Alex de Minaur progressed to the quarter-finals with a 6-0, 7-5 win over Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.

The Australian said he was not surprised that so many of the tournament’s big names had fallen by the wayside.

“We’ve all played a lot of matches this year and it’s been a long year,” said de Minaur. “At times I feel like these are the types of tournaments that are more prone to surprises. I’m just happy I was able to keep my head down and play at a good level.”

Russia’s Aslan Karatsev also advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over China’s Zhang Zhizhen.

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