Marin Cilic produced a masterclass yesterday as he overpowered American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-3 to set up a Japan Open quarterfinal against defending champion Kei Nishikori.
Meanwhile, tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios brutalised Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, the muscular Australian taking less than an hour to complete a 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory in Tokyo with some equally strong-arm tactics.
Sixth seed Cilic beat the Japanese superstar in last year’s US Open final and the Croatian, who also reached the semifinals in New York last month, showed enough against Johnson to suggest Nishikori will face a severe today.
Johnson had no answer to the power and guile of the street-wise Cilic, who clinched the first set with a cleverly disguised chip-andcharge that forced his tormented opponent into a panicked forehand he got horribly wrong.
An exquisite lob earned Cilic a break at the start of the second and such was Johnson’s frustration he slammed a ball out of the waterside arena to pick up a code violation.
His mood darkened as Cilic caught fire, ending with a flurry of passings shots, capped by a thunderous forehand on match point to wrap up victory in just 73 minutes.
“It will be very special to play Kei in Tokyo for the first time,” said Cilic, who is chasing a first title of the year and the 14th of his career.