• Kyodo

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Takao Suzuki became the first Japanese man to advance to the second round of a Grand Slam tournament in seven years when he beat Belgium’s Dick Norman in straight sets in the men’s singles at the Wimbledon tennis championships on Tuesday.

News photoJapan’s Saori Obata plays a backhand volley to Elena Bovina of Russia during their first-round match at Wimbledon. Bovina won 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 8-6.

Qualifier Suzuki, ranked 303 in the world, produced a gritty performance to outlast Norman 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) and set up a second-round meeting with Slovakian Karol Kucera, who crushed No. 28-seeded South African Wayne Ferreira 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Shuzo Matsuoka was the last Japanese player to progress to the second round of a Grand Slam tournament when he did it at this competition in 1996.

“Obviously I’m pleased to win,” said Suzuki after his first victory in the main draw of a Grand Slam event. “But I’ve got another match now so I can’t get too carried away just yet,” added the 26-year-old.

In women’s action, Saori Obata was the only Japanese player to fail to make it past the singles first round after going down to No. 21 Elina Bovina of Russia 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 8-6.

Leading 5-3 in the third set, Obata looked the favorite to advance to the second round but squandered a match point and in the end was left wondering what might have been.

Earlier, Akiko Morigami beat Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the women’s singles.

Tournament debutante Morigami, who advanced to the semifinals of the Wimbledon junior division in 1997, proved strong at the backcourt, getting the upper hand of her opponent in stroke rallies at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, with 24 unforced errors to Tanasugarn’s 33.

“I tried to be aggressive and was able to do just that, so I’m satisfied with myself. More than being able to play a good match (against world No. 31 Tanasugarn), I was hoping to win. I gain confidence with every victory,” said Morigami.

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