Nadal eases into last four, Nishikori falls at q-final hurdle

Rafael Nadal moved into the Miami Open semi-finals with a straight-sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday (March 29).
Rafael Nadal moved into the Miami Open semi-finals with a straight-sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday (March 29).PHOTO: EPA

MIAMI • Rafael Nadal moved into the Miami Open semi-finals with a straight-sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday, while second seed Kei Nishikori was sent packing after going down 6-4, 6-2 to unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini.

Nadal staved off four break points to avoid going down a double break early in the second set, a pivotal game that set the stage for his 6-2, 6-3 victory on the Crandon Park hardcourt.

The world No. 7's poise and shotmaking came to the fore when 13th seed Sock threatened to take a stranglehold on the second set.

"That was the key of the second set, two-love (down), 15-40," Nadal, who saved six of seven break points, said in a courtside interview. "At 3-0 against a player like Jack, you'll probably be thinking of a third set. It was a double positive thing. I saved that game and got the break back (in the next game). The match was much closer than the result says."

Nadal's semi-final opponent, Fognini, presents another potential pitfall. The Spaniard has a 7-3 head-to-head record but is mindful he lost to the Italian in a five-set thriller at the 2015 US Open.

"We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be in the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best," said Nadal.

World No. 40 Fognini beat Nishikori for the first time in three attempts to reach his first Masters series semi-final since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte Carlo.

"It's like a dream maybe," said the 29-year-old, after becoming the first unseeded player in 10 years to make the Miami semis. "This is a big, big tournament for me. I'm happy about my performance. I'm just trying to be focused on my game and do my best."

World No. 4 Nishikori earlier said he had not felt in top shape for the contest.

"I wasn't 100 per cent, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me," said the Japanese, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Nadal eases into last four, Nishikori falls at q-final hurdle'. Print Edition | Subscribe