The longest-running ATP event in Asia takes place at the end of September. The Japan Open is part of the 500 series and has been played in Tokyo since the early 1970s.
The tournament was first held in 1973, and was known as the Tokyo Outdoor Grand Prix. As tennis gained popularity in Japan, a women’s competition was introduced in 1979; the ATP and WTA events were played concurrently until 2008.
In 1987, the Japan Open moved to a new home, the Ariake Coliseum. A 15,000-seater venue with 48 tennis courts, it also boasts a main stadium with one of the world’s first retractable roofs.
As the tournament grew in strength and prestige throughout the 1970s, many of the biggest stars of the day made the trip to Tokyo. Australian legends Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver won the titles in 1973 and 1974 respectively. Other famous names to triumph over the next decade include Manuel Orantes and Ivan Lendl.
No man won more than one title at the Japan Open until 1989, when Stefan Edberg followed up his victory from two years earlier. The fast courts at the Ariake Stadium were well-suited to the Swede’s elegant serve-volley game, and he went on to win twice more in 1990 and 1991. The only other players to win in Tokyo on more than one occasion are Jim Courier and Pete Sampras, who won two and three titles respectively from 1992 - 1996.
In recent years, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have won the Japan Open. Kei Nishikori made history in 2012 by beating Milos Raonic to become the first ever homegrown singles champion.
Raonic def. Murray, 2012 semi-final:
Playing his first tournament since his historic triumph at the US Open, Andy Murray entered the 2012 Japan Open as the favourite for the title, and although he had looked somewhat below his best during his first few matches, he was still tipped to beat Milos Raonic comfortably in the last four.
But the big-serving Raonic immediately demonstrated that his game was anything but one-dimensional. He broke Murray to love at the first opportunity, and continued to return well throughout the opening set. Another break in the ninth game secured the first set for the Canadian 6-3.
As Raonic maintained his superb form at the beginning of the second, Murray grew increasingly agitated by his inability to dent his younger opponent’s armour. The top seed smashed his racket in frustration when he went down 2-3, and things looked even bleaker when he faced a break point against him just moments later.
Yet the Scot recovered to hold serve, and saved two more break points on the way to 6-all. In the tie-break, Raonic was just two points from victory, but Murray worked his way to 6-5, and won the set with a clever return that tied his 6’5” opponent in knots. He then moved ahead 3-1 in the decider, and looked to be on his way to completing an impressive comeback win.
Yet it was now Raonic’s turn to show resolve. He broke back in game seven, and although he twice double faulted to hand Murray match points at 5-6 down, he managed to find a crucial first serve on both occasions to steer himself out of trouble. In the final set tie-break, the underdog played aggressively to deny Murray a chance to mount another fightback. One last searing serve from Raonic sealed the biggest win of his career after two hours, 46 minutes of intense play.
Video: Raonic v Murray, 2012
- Andy and Jamie Murray won their second doubles title together at the Japan Open in 2011.
- In 2005, Satoshi Iwabuchi and Takao Suziki became the first - and so far only - Japanese team to win the doubles trophy in Tokyo.