BARCELONA.- Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori on Friday secured a place in the Barcelona Open semifinal for the fourth time in his career after a win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 53 minutes.
Nishikori, a two-time Barcelona Open champion in 2014 and 2015, displayed strength with a solid performance from the first game, as he gained a service break.
The world number seven, who was 2016 runner-up to Rafael Nadal, built on this lead to wrap up the first set, although he had to overcome a late improved play by Carballes.
The Spaniard had a chance to draw level at 5-5 in the first set, but Nishikori turned up the heat and found the best version of himself to counter Carballes’ comeback.
Carballes, a lucky loser who has taken part in the tournament replacing injured Fabio Fognini, continued to struggle to hold his serve in the second set.
He managed to save three break points in the first game of the second set, another two in the third game and three in the fifth and was able to take a 4-3 lead.
Carballes had two break points in the following game, but again Nishikori shone when it mattered and saved the day.
The Japanese player started to shuffle his cards, forcing Carballes into the net using one of his main weapons, the drop shot.
At the other end, Carballes was covering the court returning as many balls as possible with the hope of having a breakthrough.
However, a wrong-footed backhand earned Nishikori a service break for a 6-5 lead and he held serve for the match.
Next up for Nishikori will be Daniil Medvedev of Russia, world number 14, who made it this far after defeating Nicolas Jarry of Chile 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
Medvedev took the lead in the eighth game of the first set when he grabbed a service break for a 5-3 advantage and then he proceeded to seal the first set on serve.
Despite losing the first set, Jarry maintained the same approach, based on aggressive play and a less-powerful more-directed serve, which paid him off in both the second round and last-16.
Medvedev, meanwhile, kept up the pace and pushed his opponent to the limit to stay in the contest.
As in the first set, a service break was enough for the Russian to seal the win.
The quarterfinal clashes continue with a match pitting Nadal against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany and then Dominic Thiem will take on Guido Pella. EFEgmh/ta/sdh/rb