MIAMI • Kei Nishikori saved five match points to beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) on Thursday and advance to a semi-final showdown with Nick Kyrgios at the Miami Open.
The Japanese tennis star saved four match points in the 10th game of the final set, and one more in the 12th, before taking the last three tie-breaker points to end a tension-packed thriller.
"I thought, 'That's it. It's going to be tough to come back,' " Nishikori said after a battle that lasted 2hr 29min.
"But I tried to play one good point at a time. I had to focus to come back and I did it."
Monfils fired errant backhands in each of his first three match points. Nishikori rescued the fourth with a forehand winner, then saved the fifth with another forehand winner, setting up the tie-breaker.
Trailing 3-4 in the tie-breaker, Monfils netted a forehand volley and sent another long, before Nishikori ended it with a forehand winner.
"I had the opportunity to close it out but Kei played strong," said the 16th-seeded Frenchman. "He fought well. In the tie-breaker, he was just better than me."
Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, will play 24th seed Kyrgios this morning (Singapore time) for a berth in tomorrow's final. The tempestuous Australian ousted Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
"I have to return well whenever possible to get on his serve," Nishikori said. "That's going to be the key for sure."
Kyrgios, at 20, will become the youngest player in the world top 20 since 2009 on Monday.
"It's pretty cool. I'm happy with that," said the Australian. "But there are 19 guys in front of me."
Coming off his first ATP title last month in Marseille, Kyrgios is into his first ATP Masters Series semi-final but Nishikori won their only prior meeting last year in Shanghai.
"It's exciting to play one of the best players in the world," Kyrgios said. "He has got an unbelievable return of serve, moves unbelievably fast. It's going to be a tough match."
The winner will face either top-ranked Novak Djokovic or Belgium's David Goffin in the final.
ATP MIAMI OPEN
2nd s-final: StarHub Ch201, 7am