KEY BISCAYNE, FLORIDA – Kei Nishikori survived four match points in the final-set tiebreaker en route to beating world No. 4 David Ferrer in the fourth round of the Sony Open on Tuesday.
Nishikori, currently ranked 21st in the world and the 20th seed, defeated the fourth seed and last year’s runnerup 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 7-6 (11-9) in a match that lasted 3 hours, 6 minutes.
“I am happy that I was able to beat a tough opponent in a very long match,” said Nishikori. “I had no problems physically, so I was able to fight it out till the end,” he said.
The Japanese ace reached the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time and next faces former world No. 1 Roger Federer, whom he beat once in the third round of the 2013 Madrid Open. Federer, the fifth seed here, beat Nishikori in their only other match at the 2011 Basel final.
Nishikori, who hit 32 winners and converted five of his 13 break point opportunities, improved his record to 3-3 against Ferrer after defeating the Spaniard in the third round of the 2008 U.S. Open and the third round of the London Olympics.
Elsewhere, even with his surgically repaired back still nowhere near perfect, defending champion Andy Murray needed only 73 minutes to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-1 and set up a quarterfinal with Novak Djokovic.
“My game is getting there,” said Murray, the No. 6 seed, who acknowledged he was dealing with a sore back. “The last six sets I’ve played, very high-level tennis, very few errors.”
He’ll need to keep it that way against Djokovic, who eased past Tommy Robredo 6-3, 7-5.
The second-seeded Djokovic even gave back a point in the second set. A groundstroke from Robredo clipped the baseline and Djokovic couldn’t handle it, but the ball was erroneously called out. After a review showed the ball was in, the point was ordered to be replayed.
Djokovic shouted “It’s OK, it’s OK” as the fans applauded his sportsmanship.
“For me, it’s something that is part of the sport, fair play,” Djokovic said. “I expect everybody else to do the same. Of course, not everybody’s the same, but for me, that’s something that’s normal. Just a normal, natural reaction.”
Top-seeded Rafael Nadal downed 14th-seeded Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2. Nadal has dropped a total of nine games in six sets so far in this tournament.
Singles players with a combined 66 Grand Slam victories were in action Tuesday, including Federer — a winner of 17 of them himself. And he looked very much like the Federer of old, needing only 49 minutes to beat ninth-seeded Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-2.
“Look, things went well out on the court today,” Federer said, clearly understating matters.
No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine pulled off an upset, topping third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals.
The last American in the men’s draw was ousted when 10th-seeded John Isner lost to No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5.
On the women’s side, Maria Sharapova rallied from a break down in the first set to oust Petra Kvitova 7-5, 6-1 and earn a spot in the semifinals. She’s been a finalist at Key Biscayne five times, but never the champion.
“I love the energy here,” she said.