Nishikori saves five match points to beat Monfils in Miami Open

Miami (Florida), April 1 (IANS) Japan’s Kei Nishikori advanced to the semi-finals of the Miami Open tennis tournament with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils, who squandered five match points late in the contest.

The Japanese No.6 seed nearly paid dearly for his poor play on serve in the opening set and his unforced errors in critical moments of the third set on Thursday, reports Efe.

Monfils, meanwhile, suffered physically in the hot South Florida conditions but fought back valiantly late in the third set before losing the match in a heartbreaking fashion.

The match began sloppily with three service breaks in the first five games and Nishikori, who suffered two of those breaks, having won just 38 percent of his first-serve points midway through the opening set.

The 16th-seeded Monfils took full advantage of his early lead, eventually settling down on serve and claiming the first set thanks in part to six aces.

Nishikori, however, seized the momentum of the match shortly afterward, dominating the baseline rallies in the second set and most of the third set to grab a seemingly commanding 4-6, 6-3, 4-2 lead.

The Frenchman appeared spent at that juncture under the intense Miami sun, but ironically he responded by producing fine brand of tennis to get back on serve and then hold several match points against a suddenly erratic Nishikori.

The surprises kept coming though, as Nishikori pulled himself out of a 0-40 hole and then saved a fourth match point en route to tying the match at 5-5. He then forced a tiebreaker after fending off yet another match point in the 12th game.

The best version of the 2014 US Open finalist emerged in the tiebreaker, and he swept to a comfortable victory against his tired opponent.

Next up for Nishikori in Friday’s semi-finals of this elite hard-court event will be either big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada, the No. 12 seed, or Australian rising star Nick Kyrgios, the 24th seed.

Friday’s other men’s semi-final will pit Serbian World No.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic against Belgian No.15 seed David Goffin.

In women’s semi-final action on Thursday, Russian No.15 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova topped Swiss No.19 seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3. She will next take on either Belarusian No.13 seed Victoria Azarenka or German No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s final.

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