Indian Wells: Nadal beats Nishikori

Tennis Updates:

Three-time former champion Rafael Nadal is through to the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open after surviving an early onslaught to defeat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3 on Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The Spaniard will face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for a place in the final of the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season.

The 29-year-old Nadal is bidding to reach the final in Indian Wells for the fifth time. Winner of 27 Masters 1000 crowns, Nadal lifted the trophy at the BNP Paribas Open in 2007 (d. Djokovic), 2009 (d. Murray) and 2013 (d. Del Potro); he also finished runner-up to Djokovic in 2011.

“[Nishikori] started so quickly, hitting all the balls very well and serving great,” Nadal said. “Then he started to miss some first serves, and I returned his second serves aggressively. That was so important in the development of the match.

“My return was important. At the same time, my serve was enough good for this match.”

The left-hander was under pressure early from the fifth-seeded Nishikori, who captured his 11th ATP World Tour title in Memphis last month (d. Fritz). The Japanese star broke early and had points for a 4-1 double-break lead, before Nadal found his groove.

The Manacor native fought back to level at 3-3 and from 4-4 reeled off five straight games to steal the opener and take a commanding lead in the second set. Nadal had a point for 4-0, before Nishikori halted his momentum. After getting a foothold in the set, Nishikori then brought himself back into contention with a break in the seventh game. But Nadal regained his advantage in the following game and served out victory in one hour and 33 minutes.

“I felt strong mentally,” Nadal added. “I had the right energy. I was able to fight for every ball. I was able to keep going during the whole match and believe in myself again, and that made me play with more energy and less nerves.

“That’s so important for me. It’s the way I’ve played my whole career. This week has been very, very positive.”


About Boyan Vasilev

Soccer, Tennis and Volleyball writer

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