Nishikori falls short

World No. 5 loses in semis of Madrid Open against Murray

Kyodo, AP

World No. 5 Kei Nishikori saw his hopes of reaching the Madrid Open final for the second year in a row end on Saturday with a straight-sets defeat to Britain’s Andy Murray in the semifinals.

Murray won 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain in Sunday’s final. Nadal won the other semi 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 against Czech Tomas Berdych to make his seventh Madrid final.

Nishikori won his most recent encounter against Murray in the round-robin stage of last year’s ATP World Tour Finals, but it was the Scot who was on top from the start.

The world No. 3 broke in the seventh game and secured the early advantage, drawing an error from Nishikori with a leaping backhand before winning the first set in 45 minutes with his second break.

Nishikori got ahead with a break for 2-1 in the second set, but could not hold his serve and allowed Murray to immediately draw level. Murray broke back and carried the momentum to the finish line.

“I could not deal well with (Murray’s) serve and tried to be aggressive in the second set but made too many errors,” said Nishikori, who conceded defeat to then-world No. 1 Nadal in last year’s final after he was forced to retire with a back injury in the third set.

“I don’t think I played too bad, but to beat Andy I was missing too much. I thought I was doing well a couple times, but I think overall he maintained his concentration pretty well.”

Petra Kvitova eased to the women’s title when she beat an unwell Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-2.

A day after ending Serena Williams’ unbeaten start to the year, Kvitova’s powerful groundstrokes and fitness overwhelmed her Russian rival to add the championship to her 2011 victory.

“It was an amazing week for me, and I’m really happy to stand here for the second time, in this beautiful court,” Kvitova said after her 16th career WTA title.

Kuznetsova looked off color, called for a physiotherapist twice, and was visited by the tournament doctor. Just before the final game, she was allowed by the chair umpire to go to the dressing room.

At the award presentation Kuznetsova, who took out defending champion Maria Sharapova the day before, apologized in Spanish to the spectators that she had not been able to play a good match.

“I’m sorry the level wasn’t very high, but I promise to come next year and play better,” said Kuznetsova, raising a cheer.

Nadal has won the last two Madrid Opens, and will attempt to win his fifth overall on Sunday.

He found the lines against Berdych, who beat him in the Australian Open quarterfinals, down both lanes with unerring accuracy, and forced Berdych to cover a lot of ground.

Nadal thanked the cheering fans, saying, “You don’t know what this means to me.”

He said when he arrived in Madrid he wasn’t sure he would be able to pass the first round, but that Saturday’s match was the best he’d played all year.