Kei Nishikori battled from a set down to defeat Spain’s Tommy Robredo on Thursday and book a quarterfinal meeting with second seed and 2008 champion Tomas Berdych at the Japan Open.
Eighth-seeded Nishikori, who made his first semifinal finish of the season in Malaysia last weekend, prevailed 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 in front of a partisan home crowd to reach the last eight for the first time in five attempts.
Nishikori, who has fallen in the first round the past two years here, dropped his serve in the opening game and failed to capitalize on a number of chances, allowing unseeded Robredo to break again in the 11th game before holding on to take the first set at Ariake Colosseum.
But the 22-year-old stormed back, racing to a 3-0 lead and acing out to take the second set, before going on to complete victory in a little under two hours on center court.
“I am seeded in this tournament, so I am expected to come this far anyway, but I’m happy and relieved that I have got through to the next round. I am looking forward to doing better,” said Nishikori.
Nishikori said defense will be the key against Berdych, who he holds a 2-1 record against but lost to in their most recent meeting in Monte Carlo.
“His play suits this surface and he has won this tournament before. He serves well and has got a flat, very effective forehand. Defense will be the key and I can’t allow Berdych to find his rhythm because that would be very difficult to break.”
Earlier, world No. 6 Berdych captured his 50th ATP Tour victory of the season in 80 minutes on a warm afternoon, beating Colombian Alejandro Falla 6-3, 7-5.
Winner of his seventh career title at Montpellier in February, the Czech uncorked three superb backhand winners en route to breaking Falla and taking a 4-2 lead before going on to serve out the first set.
Berdych reeled off back-to-back aces to make it 4-4 in the second set after Falla had threatened to break his serve. He got the crucial break in the 11th game with another pinpoint backhand before closing out with his ninth ace of the match.
“I was feeling much, much better physically than in my first match and I was able to profit from that,” said Berdych, who opened with a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) win over Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Looking ahead to Friday’s quarterfinal, he said, “Nishikori is one for the future. He is playing at home, which is always a good advantage, and will give him extra motivation, but nothing changes for me. I will try to play my best tennis and see what happens.”
Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus knocked out fourth seed Juan Monaco of Argentina 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. He will next play either Tatsuma Ito or Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov.
In the day’s opening match on center court, third-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic disposed of Swiss qualifier Marco Chiudinelli 6-4, 6-2.
Tipsarevic will play sixth seed Milos Raonic of Canada in the next round. Raonic won his match against Viktor Troicki after the Serb retired at 3-0 down in the first set with a calf injury.