NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2008 with a straight-sets victory over Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer on Saturday.
World No. 11 Nishikori won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3, and will face big-serving Milos Raonic in the next round for his first trip to the quarterfinals.
“I’m just thrilled to have made it to the (round of 16),” Nishikori said. “I’ve got my game instincts back so I have nothing to worry about.”
Nishikori broke his 23rd-seeded opponent six times in their second career meeting, the first since Wimbledon last year when the Japanese also won in three sets.
Mayer did not help himself by committing 10 more unforced errors than Nishikori and five double faults, the last of which set up match point for Nishikori to convert.
The last time Nishikori reached the last 16, he was only 18, making his first U.S. Open appearance. Nishikori and Raonic last faced off at Wimbledon this year, when the Canadian prevailed in four sets in the round of 16.
Nishikori, though, did beat Raonic twice before that, at this season’s Madrid Open and in the 2012 Japan Open final — which Nishikori won to become the first Japanese to capture the tournament.
“Raonic is someone I have to be able to beat if I want to return to the top 10,” he said of his sixth-ranked opponent in the next round.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stayed on course for a mouth-watering quarterfinal showdown and five-time women’s champion Serena Williams stood alone as America’s last singles title hope.
But as the heavyweights of the sport eased into the fourth round, the women’s draw was blown open again when Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova became the fifth top-10 seed to exit in the first week.
Kvitova’s misery was shared by American tennis after John Isner and Sam Querrey were both knocked out in the third round leaving the hosts still without a men’s Grand Slam champion since Andy Roddick triumphed in New York in 2003.
Djokovic, the 2011 champion, brushed aside Querrey for the eighth time in nine meetings, with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win taking the world No. 1 into the fourth round at a major for the 22nd consecutive time.
“Sam is big server, very powerful. But he doesn’t move that well so I wanted to keep him moving around the court, mix up the pace and get as many returns as possible back,” said Djokovic after an 85-minute win which was never in doubt from the time he raced into a 5-0 lead in the first set.
Wimbledon champion and seven-time major winner Djokovic will next face Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber who ended U.S. hopes with a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4) win over Isner despite the American 13th seed firing 42 aces and 77 winners.
It was the third successive year that Kohlschreiber had defeated Isner in the third round.
“It’s a disappointment for me personally, not the United States as a whole,” said Isner.
Williams racked up her 75th victory at the U.S. Open when she eased past her third successive American compatriot, Uzbekistan-born left-hander Varvara Lepchenko, 6-3, 6-3, and will tackle tough Estonian Kaia Kanepi for a quarterfinal berth.
“I had to make some adjustments because of the wind but I got some excellent advice from my coach,” said 32-year-old Williams, playing in her 15th U.S. Open and aiming to become just the second woman after Chris Evert in the 1970s to win three New York titles in succession.
“My opponent played at an unbelievable level, but I tried to hang in there and do what I needed to do.”
Murray, the 2012 champion, hit 47 winners in a 6-1, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov, the world No. 96, to book a seventh appearance in the fourth round and goes on to face French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who beat Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
“I got off to a good start and then had a cushion when he got back into the match in the third set,” said the 27-year-old Murray.
Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the Australian Open champion, reached the fourth round without hitting a ball when Slovenian opponent Blaz Kavcic withdrew with a right foot injury.
That took the number of retirements and walkovers at this year’s U.S. Open to 10 in the men’s event and two in the women’s.
Women’s No. 3 seed Kvitova lost her third round tie 6-4, 6-4 to pint-sized Serbian, 21-year-old Aleksandra Krunic, who came through qualifying.
Kvitova joins second seed Simona Halep, fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber, the sixth seed, and eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic in failing to make the fourth round.