Taylor Fritz, the defending champion, began his campaign in the Japan Open with a victory on Tuesday.
He expressed his renewed motivation and readiness to play after reducing his workload ahead of the tournament.
The American tennis sensation has been one of the busiest players on the ATP Tour this season. However, he consciously took a step back from the intense schedule following the US Open, participating only in the Laver Cup and Shanghai Masters.
In his opening match, he overcame Britain's Cameron Norrie with a 6-4, 6-3 win, marking the start of his title defence in Tokyo. Fritz acknowledged that this break has likely prevented burnout, saying, "After the US Open, I think I played the most matches of anyone on tour. I thought it made sense to start the Asia swing in Shanghai. I feel motivated and ready to play."
Ranked at number 10 in the world, Fritz, who also holds the top seed in Tokyo, secured last year's Japan Open title by defeating fellow American Frances Tiafoe. He has six career titles to his name and is currently the highest-ranked American player.
Reflecting on his Tokyo opener, Fritz shared, "I was holding easily, and then out of nowhere, he broke me, so it was a tough spot to be in. I feel like I played a couple of really good points to break, and I played the bigger, more important points better in the return games. I definitely upped my level."
Joining Fritz in the next round was his countryman Ben Shelton, who had a challenging match against Japan's Taro Daniel. Shelton prevailed with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) victory. Despite struggling with his serve in the first set, Shelton's experience in previous third-set tiebreakers helped him secure the win. Currently ranked at number 19 in the world, Shelton recently reached the semi-finals of the US Open.
Number two seed Casper Ruud of Norway also advanced to the second round by defeating Japan's Yosuke Watanuki with a score of 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.
In other matches, Australia's number four seed, Alex de Minaur, overcame Britain's Jack Draper with a 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1) victory, while Australia's Alexei Popyrin eliminated Russian number seven seed Karen Khachanov with a score of 6-4, 6-2.