TOKYO — Tomas Berdych lost his opening match at the Japan Open to Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6 (7), 6-1 on Wednesday.
Berdych captured his first ATP title of the season when he retained his Shenzhen Open crown in China on Sunday, but his first-round defeat in Tokyo dented his bid for the ATP Finals. He lies ninth in the race for the elite eight-man finals, which he’s played for the last six years.
Also, Marin Cilic overcame Spanish baseliner Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 to be the first player into the third round.
Berdych and Muller believed Maria Sharapova was lucky to have her two-year doping ban reduced to 15 months.
“Anyone who gives a positive test should get punished. Should they get a reduction? I don’t think so, in general,” Muller said. “It shows other sportsmen that, at the end of the day, the punishment is not going to be that big.”
Berdych said players knew they had to be very careful about any medications.
“Every single time I have to take something, I check many times with many different people,” he said.
“At the end, you are the player, you are the athlete, and you are the one who’s going to be tested. I always check whatever I take because I’m the one who will go for the (doping) control.”
A weary Berdych, the 2008 Japan Open champion, squandered three break points in the sixth game then failed to convert a set-point in the first tiebreaker.
After falling 3-0 behind in the second set, the Czech called for a trainer to treat a left glute problem, and was unable to stop Muller, who fired 12 aces.
“At the beginning of the second set, my body gave me a bit of a sign I’ve been playing a little too much tennis in the last couple of weeks,” Berdych said.
Muller, a two-time finalist this year, next faces Marcos Baghdatis.
“We played juniors together and practiced in the same academy back then,” Muller said. “He’s a good friend of mine and that makes it a bit tougher.”