With a typhoon swirling around Tokyo, Takao Suzuki served up a storm of his own in the first round of the AIG Japan Open at Ariake Colosseum on Tuesday, blowing out 10th-seeded American Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“I tried to go after points using my strong service,” said Suzuki, a 26-year-old Sapporo native who practiced his service motion during breaks. “A few aces at crucial times really helped me.

“I also tried to mix up my game, something which I have noticed other top players doing,” Suzuki added. “The home support also gave me a lift.”

Local favorite Suzuki, ranked 117th in the world, had the crowd on its feet and Gambill on the back foot from the outset, using a powerful and consistent first serve to gain an advantage in what proved to be an intriguing contest.

As world No. 43 Gambill struggled with his first serve, Suzuki employed a chip-and-charge tactic, putting his opponent under pressure in the first set and setting up break points in the third and fifth games. While Suzuki failed to convert these early chances, he made no mistake on another opportunity in the seventh game, surging ahead with a forehand volley winner.

In the second set, the heavy rain began to spring leaks in the arena’s retractable roof, just as Gambill began to crack into Suzuki’s game. Gambill made a decisive break in the eighth game of the second set and appeared to have taken the upper hand in the contest when he closed out the second set 6-3.

But Suzuki had other aces up his sleeve. Suzuki cracked seven of them in the third set and 13 in total to keep Gambill at bay and prevent him from getting a grip on the match — and his temper for that matter, smashing a racket in frustration as he lost his serve to put Suzuki up 4-2.

Suzuki made no mistake, holding his serve and nerve to close out the match in style with an ace.

In other first-round action, Sweden’s Magnus Larsson ousted Mario Ancic of Croatia 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to set up a clash with Ecuadorean seventh seed Nicolas Lapentti.

The 2000 French Open runnerup Magnus Norman whipped George Bastl 6-3, 6-0 and next faces a daunting opponent in No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Rain caused the postponement of games scheduled for the outdoor courts and those will be made up today, weather permitting.

Suzuki’s next opponent will be the winner of the Ramon Delgado-Brian Dahaly match. The top seed in the event is world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.

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