Nadal eyes Japan Open defence


Rafael Nadal will defend his title at the Japan Open starting Monday as he makes his return to the tour following defeat to Novak Djokovic in last month’s US Open final.
The 25-year-old Spaniard lost his world number one ranking to Djokovic after the Serb’s triumph at Wimbledon and suffered an early exit in Montreal in the build-up to the final Grand Slam of the year in New York.
But Nadal comes into the Tokyo tournament in fine form after helping Spain reach the Davis Cup final by beating France’s Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a 4-1 win for his team.
“It’s exciting. For me, motivation is high and it’s always exciting to go back, especially when you come back to the place you won last year. The memories and emotions are higher,” said world number two Nadal.
“It’s an important, big tournament for me. I’m just looking forward to going to practice and I try to know a bit about the conditions this year to feel good as soon as possible.
“I’ll try my best. That’s what I will do — try my best every moment, have good practices today, tomorrow, to be focused to be ready for Tuesday.”
In the first round, Nadal will take on Japanese wild card entrant Go Soeda and is scheduled to meet either Robin Haase of the Netherlands or Yuichi Sugita of Japan in the second round.
Nadal has been drawn in the same quarter as sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.
Also in the top half with him are American fourth seed Mardy Fish and fifth seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
Second seed Andy Murray of Britain spearheads the bottom half, which also includes 2007 Japan Open champion David Ferrer of Spain, Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic and Juan Monaco of Argentina.
Murray will play Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in the first round and is then slated to meet the winner of the match between American Alex Bogomolov Jr and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the second round.