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Kei Nishikori cruises past Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rakuten Japan Open quarterfinals

AFP-JIJI

Local favorite Kei Nishikori thrashed fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Rakuten Japan Open semifinals on Friday, edging him closer to a third Tokyo title.

Third seed Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 career titles in Memphis two years ago, made light of the danger posed by the young Greek with a ruthless victory in just 82 minutes.

After winning this tournament in 2012 and 2014, Nishikori will have to get past Richard Gasquet to advance to the final for a third time after the Frenchman upset second seed Kevin Anderson 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) in the late match.

Nishikori broke Tsitsipas for a second time to nudge ahead 4-3 before closing out the first set with an acrobatic backhand volley.

The world No. 12 quickly took a 4-1 lead in the second as the potential threat of a swashbuckling opponent ranked only three places below him never materialized.

Having failed with his first two match points, it was third time lucky for Nishikori, who delivered the coup de grace by whipping a forehand past a deflated Tsitsipas to the delight of a sellout crowd.

“I played well from start to finish,” said Nishikori, a former U.S. Open runner-up who reached the New York semifinals last month.

“I was returning well, which meant I could serve relaxed,” added the 28-year-old, who is chasing a first title since recovering from a lengthy wrist injury.

“I was picking the ball up early, seeing it big and being aggressive. Hopefully now I can go even further.”

Earlier, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, who last year made unwanted headlines after smashing a ball at an umpire and fracturing his eye socket during a Davis Cup tie, squeezed past German Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4.

Sixth seed Milos Raonic, a three-time Tokyo finalist, crashed out in straight sets, the big-serving Canadian toppled 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 by Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev.