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Nishikori battles into quarterfinals

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori clinched victory in the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time in his career on Monday after surviving a tough test against Ernests Gulbis, beating the Latvian 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (12-10), 6-1.

Later in the day, three-time champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the quarterfinals with a dominant round-of-16 win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, the Serbian setting himself up for a clash with Nishikori in the men’s quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Nishikori’s win, which came at the 10th attempt, made him the first Japanese since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995 to secure a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club. Nishikori has now advanced to the last eight at all four Grand Slams.

It took the 28th-ranked Nishikori 3 hours, 28 minutes to beat world No. 138 Gulbis, a former top-10 player, Grand Slam semifinalist and the first male qualifier in six years to get to the fourth round.

“I struggled a fair bit with my return today,” said Nishikori. “He has a very particular and fast style of hitting the ball. I couldn’t get to grips with it until around the second set.”

He added: “It was with the tie break that I felt I had got back to playing the tennis I wanted to be playing.”

Nishikori failed to gain much ground against Gulbis’ serve at the beginning of the match. The Latvian won six games to love in the first two sets and did not give the Shimane native a single break point opportunity.

Down one set, Nishikori managed to push Gulbis into one tie break and then another, both of which he eventually won.

After briefly retiring for treatment for a fall at 2-5 down in the second tie break, Gulbis pulled level, and then went ahead only to lose the set with a backhand into the net.

In the final set, Nishikori managed to convert his only two successful break points into a significant lead and then served out for the victory.

“I think I had to break him earlier in the second set . . . this would have turned the match. I wasn’t aggressive enough,” said Gulbis. “(Nishikori is) a fighter, he found his way.”

Nishikori had only twice before reached the fourth round, in 2014 and 2016. Last year he made a third-round exit.

“I’m happy to have gotten past that wall,” said Nishikori. “It’s going to be a tough battle to win.”

Roger Federer posted a 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 victory over 22nd-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France in the fourth round.

Federer, who has won 32 consecutive sets at the tournament and held serve 81 games in a row, was asked whether he paused for even a moment to wonder why he wasn’t being given more of a test. “Not really,” said Federer, the No. 1 seed. “I’m telling myself, ‘Why didn’t I break the first game of the second?’ “

Federer was followed on Centre Court by Serena Williams, she of the seven Wimbledon trophies among her 23 majors, who was hardly challenged in a 6-2, 6-2 win against 120th-ranked qualifier Evgeniya Rodina of Russia. And Williams was followed by Rafael Nadal — two titles at Wimbledon, 17 at all Slams — who dispatched 93rd-ranked Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Was Mannarino intimidated by playing in that hallowed arena?

“The fact that it is the Centre Court, and the fact that it is a lot of people in the stands — it’s not changing anything, actually. The only different thing is that it’s Federer in front of me, and he’s a really good opponent. It makes the job harder,” Mannarino said. “This is what is not easy to handle.”

The women’s quarterfinals are Tuesday, with Williams vs. Camila Giorgi, two-time major champion Angelique Kerber vs. No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. Dominika Cibulkova, and No. 13 Julia Goerges vs. No. 20 Kiki Bertens.

On Wednesday, Federer will play No. 8 Kevin Anderson, a South African who was the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up and advanced with a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Gael Monfils.