Nishikori passes Greek test to reach Ja­pan Open semis

Observer on Saturday - - Sport - AFP

TOKYO - Lo­cal favourite Kei Nishikori thrashed fifth seed Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Ja­pan Open semi-fi­nals yes­ter­day edg­ing him closer to a third Tokyo ti­tle.

Third seed Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 ca­reer ti­tles in Mem­phis two years ago, made light of the dan­ger posed by the young Greek with a ruth­less vic­tory in just 82 min­utes.

Af­ter win­ning the Ja­pan Open in 2012 and 2014, Nishikori will face the win­ner of the late match be­tween sec­ond seeded South African Kevin An­der­son or France's Richard Gas­quet as he looks to ad­vance to the fi­nal for the third time.

Nishikori broke Tsit­si­pas for a sec­ond time to nudge ahead 4-3 be­fore clos­ing out the first set with an ac­ro­batic back­hand vol­ley.

The world num­ber 12 quickly took a 4-1 lead in the sec­ond as the po­ten­tial threat of a swash­buck­ling op­po­nent ranked only three places be­low him never ma­te­ri­alised.

Lucky

Hav­ing failed with his first two match points, it was third time lucky for Nishikori, who de­liv­ered the coup de grace by whip­ping a fore­hand past a de­flated Tsit­si­pas to the de­light of a sell-out crowd.

"I played well from start to fin­ish," said Nishikori, a for­mer US Open run­ner-up who reached New York semi­fi­nals last month. "I was re­turn­ing well, which meant I could serve re­laxed," added the 28-year-old, who is chas­ing a first ti­tle since re­cov­er­ing from a lengthy wrist in­jury.

"I was pick­ing the ball up early, see­ing it big and be­ing ag­gres­sive. Hope­fully now I can go even fur­ther."

Ear­lier, Canada's Denis Shapo­valov, who last year made un­wanted head­lines af­ter smash­ing a ball at an um­pire and frac­tur­ing his eye socket dur­ing a Davis Cup tie, squeezed past Ger­man Jan-Len­nard Struff 4-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4.

Sixth seed Mi­los Raonic, a three-time Tokyo fi­nal­ist, crashed out in straight sets, the big-serv­ing Cana­dian top­pled 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 by Rus­sian qual­i­fier Daniil Medvedev.

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