Tennis

Kei Nishikori beats Mikhail Kukushkin to make Wimbledon quarterfinals

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Kei Nishikori advanced to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon for the second straight year on Monday following a fourth-round victory over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

The eighth-seeded Nishikori claimed a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over the world No. 58 Kukushkin on No. 2 Court. He will face second-seeded Roger Federer in his campaign to reach the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time.

“I kept patient although this was a tough match to close out,” Nishikori said. “I was hanging in there and waiting for chances.

“I’ll need to elevate my game further (for coming rounds) to compete against the top players in the world.”

Nishikori gained a decisive early break in the fourth game of the opener, but in the second set he lost serve late and allowed Kukushkin to level the match.

After securing the only break of the third set to go up 5-3, Nishikori held serve at deuce to retake the lead.

In the final set, neither player managed to hold serve through the first five games. Nishikori went up 4-2 with the set’s first successful hold, and three games later mustered an ace on the way to double match point.

Kukushkin eked out another point, but his forehand return at 40-30 sailed wide to give Nishikori the match in 2 hours, 43 minutes.

The world No. 7 Nishikori has now made it to the last eight or better in five consecutive Grand Slams dating back to his showing at Wimbledon last year, when he reached the quarterfinals for the first time but lost in four sets to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.

Nishikori is the only Japanese singles player remaining at this year’s Wimbledon. In the first round, former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka suffered a straight-sets loss to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the women’s competition.

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal eased into the quarterfinals as the sport’s Grand Slam heavyweights continued to deliver blow after blow to their wilting lightweight rivals.

Federer became the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in 28 years when he booked his place in the last eight for the 17th time.

The eight-time champion breezed past Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just 74 minutes to make sure of a spot in his 55th quarterfinal at Grand Slams.

It was also his 99th win at the All England Club.

At 37, he is the oldest man to reach the last eight at the majors since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 U.S. Open.

Federer had 24 winners and just five unforced errors in the victory.

Defending champion and world No. 1 Djokovic reached his 11th Wimbledon quarterfinal and 45th at the majors with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win over France’s Ugo Humbert.

Third seed Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, swept to an easy 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over outclassed Joao Sousa of Portugal to book his place in a seventh quarterfinal at the All England Club.

Between them, the “Big Three” faced just one break point on Monday and dropped a combined 19 games.

“I’m really getting into a good groove now, today I was able to read his serve, get the returns back in play and hit well from the baseline,” said Federer, who could face Nadal in a blockbuster semifinal.

“I’m still getting used to the conditions also but on the performance it was a really good match for me.”

Four-time champion and top seed Djokovic will face Belgium’s David Goffin for a place in the semifinals.

Djokovic, 32, has a 5-1 career record over 21st seed Goffin, who will be playing in his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Humbert, the world No 66, had never played a match on grass before this season and was defeated in just 1 hour and 42 minutes.

“My plan always is to reach the final stages at Grand Slams,” said Djokovic, who converted five of nine break points.

“Wimbledon has been a special tournament that has motivated me throughout my life.”

Nadal next plays Sam Querrey, against whom he holds a 4-1 record.

The 33-year-old Nadal is chasing his 19th title at the majors, which would put him just one behind the all-time record of 20 held by Federer.

“A lot of positive things out there. To be back in the quarterfinals is great news for me,” said Nadal, who took just three minutes more than Djokovic to complete his day’s work.

Goffin matched his best-ever performance at the majors by reaching his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

The Belgian beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (11-9), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.