Wawrinka beats Stepanek, will next face Ito at Japan Open

TOKYO (AP) French Open champion Stan Wawrinka made it through this time.

A year after a surprising first-round exit at the Japan Open, the top-seeded Swiss won his opening match at this year’s tournament, beating Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-3 Tuesday.

”Last year I was struggling a little bit to find my best level after the U.S. Open,” said Wawrinka, wearing a ”Stan The Man” T-shirt. ”This year, I feel quite fresh.”

Wawrinka lost to Tatsuma Ito in the first round last year, and that’s who he will face in the second round this time.

”I remember the match with Ito well. Now I know how he plays,” Wawrinka said. ”I will only try to play my game well in general — being aggressive, serving well — and then the solution will come.”

The fourth-ranked Wawrinka looked fully recovered from the ankle injury that forced his withdrawal from a tournament in Metz, France, last month.

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Also, Wimbledon semifinalist Richard Gasquet, seeded fourth, was eliminated by Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-4, 6-1.

”I was tired after the U.S. Open. I didn’t practice too much,” said Gasquet, who was playing his first match since reaching the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows. ”I need to practice more.”

Bautista Agut will next face Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Also, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg beat fifth-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-2, 6-3 and Benoit Paire of France defeated eighth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.