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Kei Nishikori advances to Italian Open quarterfinals

Kyodo, AP, Staff Report

Kei Nishikori powered past Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in straight sets Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.

Nishikori, coming off a win against world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov a day earlier, defeated the 28th-ranked Kohlschreiber 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour.

The victory sets up Nishikori, currently ranked 24th, to take on former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the last eight.

“I played almost perfectly (today),” Nishikori said. “But I know that (Djokovic) will be tough to beat. I get a different feeling before our matches compared with other players. More than anything I have to stay strong.”

The 11th-seeded Serb, who has had lingering elbow problems since coming back from a six-month layoff in January following surgery, advanced with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.

Djokovic holds a 12-2 career record against Nishikori, most recently handing the Shimane native a first-round exit at the Madrid Open last week.

“It was strange playing Kei in the first round in Madrid. But, it was a very close match,” Djokovic said. “I expect the same tomorrow. I expect a big fight from both of us.”

Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal methodically wore down Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-1 to reach the last eight and gain revenge over the Canadian teenager.

The 19-year-old Shapovalov stunned Nadal in the third round in Montreal last year to deny the Spanish player a chance to regain the No. 1 spot.

Nadal is also attempting to win the top spot back this week. He’ll replace Roger Federer if he wins an eighth Rome title.

In a match between two left-handers, Shapovalov saved eight break points in his opening two service games before finally dropping his serve midway through the first set.

“He was really serving big and I had some mistakes with the return,” Nadal said. “It was not a comfortable match against a lefty who serves big and goes for his shots.

“He’s good in all aspects. The only thing he needs is a little bit more time.”

Shapovalov was stretched to three sets in his opening two matches, against 15th-seeded Tomas Berdych and Robin Haase, and reached the semifinals of the Madrid Open.

“I didn’t feel completely dead out there but I felt like I could’ve been fresher,” Shapovalov said.

Nadal, who hasn’t won the Italian Open since 2013, next faces Fabio Fognini, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4.

Fognini slammed his racket midway through the second set and received a warning from the umpire but otherwise held his composure to follow up an impressive win over Dominic Thiem.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev needed eight match points before completing a 7-5, 7-6 (13-11) win over Kyle Edmund.

His next opponent will be ninth-seeded David Goffin, who was leading 6-2, 4-5 when Juan Martin del Potro retired because of a groin injury.

Fourth-seeded Marin Cilic defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-4 and will meet Pablo Carreno Busta, who beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2.

In the women’s tournament, Simona Halep’s hold on the No. 1 ranking received a boost when American Madison Keys withdrew from their last-16 match due to a rib injury.

Halep now needs to progress further than No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki to stay in the top spot.

Wozniacki beat 15th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and next faces Anett Kontaveit, who ousted 1999 champion Venus Williams 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) for her second win over the American in two weeks.

Last year, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a lead and the championship to Elina Svitolina.

Halep next plays seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Svitolina overcame a poor start to beat 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. She’ll now face former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who routed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-1.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts in 10 days.