The 2014-15 Barcelona champion arrived in Spain on a three-match losing streak, but he has raised his level at the ATP 500 tournament with three straight-sets victories. The World No. 7 won all but six first-serve points (39/45) en route to his one-hour, 53-minute triumph.
“The econd set was very tight. I had many chances,” Nishikori said. “I couldn’t convert and he started playing better. He almost had a chance to go to three sets, so it was a very good game, I would say. But the past two games I finished really well and played good tennis again.”
Nishikori will face in-form Daniil Medvedev for a spot in Sunday’s championship match. The Japanese star has won two of the pair’s three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, including their only match on clay last year in Monte-Carlo. But the Russian was victorious in their biggest battle, in the final of Tokyo last season.
“He’s definitely a tough player,” Nishikori said. “He has a good serve, good reach. He gets many balls. He moves well for his height, so I have to play a lot of good tennis if I want to beat him.”
It was not an easy quarter-final for the fourth seed, who was made to fight hard by Carballes Baena, the 2018 Quito champion. The Spaniard did well to neutralise Nishikori’s offence as best he could, taking any opening he could find to dictate play. But after saving the first eight break points he faced in the second set, Carballes Baena could not hold off Nishikori, who also made the 2016 final here.
Seventh-seeded Russian Medvedev lost just two of his first-service points and broke once in each set to stop the giant-killing run of Chilean lucky loser Nicolas Jarry 6-3, 6-4 in 86 minutes for a place in the last four. Jarry had beaten second seed Alexander Zverev and No. 13 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the two previous rounds.
“I think it was really tough conditions to play. It was dry and windy, so the balls were flying a lot,” Medvedev said. “I needed to win it. I needed to be in the semi-finals. I won it and I’m happy.”
Medvedev, who captured his fourth ATP Tour title at the Sofia Open (d. Fucsovics) in February, has a tour-leading 24-7 match record on the season.
Did You Know?
Medvedev had two tour-level clay-court wins entering the year, and he now has seven this season alone (including a run to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters semi-finals).