Steady As It Goes: Ferrer Cruises Past Nishikori Into Australian Open Quarterfinals

Ferrer tracked down all of the shots that he needed to reach the quarters.

In a strange match that fell short of expectations, fourth seed David Ferrer claimed his revenge for an Olympics loss to Kei Nishikori by halting last year’s quarterfinalist here in the fourth round.  Nishikori looked sporadically hampered after a brief but impressive surge to open the match, whereas Ferrer played generally solid baseline tennis to prevail 6-2 6-1 6-4.

Saving break points in the opening game with an ace and a service winner, Ferrer struggled to survive deep groundstrokes from Nishikori that showed his improved pace.  The Japanese star opened the court efficiently before closing to the net and finishing points with crisp technique.  Although he could not claim the early lead, he held confidently in his first service game, always important for an underdog.  Nishikori lost little time in thrusting Ferrer under pressure on serve again, constructing points with care as he outmaneuvered his opponent from the baseline.  The Spaniard saved three more break points in a demonstration of his tenacity.

A multiple-deuce game ensued on Nishikori’s own serve, which he erased with an inside-out forehand approach.  With a double fault, though, he conceded the break in deflating fashion.  For a change, Ferrer jumped ahead 40-0 on his serve and held without facing a break point for the first time.  Nishikori again found himself mired in deuce after deuce despite taking an initial 30-0 lead, but he saved a crucial break point with a serve-forehand combination.  Still just a single break behind, he started to look a bit dejected and tossed his racket after a netted groundstroke moved Ferrer to 5-2.  Probably sensing that tone, the fourth seed redoubled his persistence and closed out the set with a break as Nishikori donated a handful of uninspired errors.

In addition to his mental strength, groundstroke depth had played a crucial role in winning the first set for Ferrer.  The run of games for him continued with a difficult hold during which he saved a break point.  But the war of attrition appeared to reap continuing rewards for the Spaniard who specializes in it, Nishikori quickly surrendering his own serve at love with a series of errors.  A quick hold with an ace confirmed the lead for Ferrer.  Summoning the trainer at the changeover, Nishikori again lost his serve at love as the match that had looked so promising began to fade.  Ferrer oddly threw his tottering opponent a lifeline by falling behind triple break point.

Erasing each of them, the last with a spectacular running pass, the fourth seed served out the set with aplomb.  He had yielded just three games over two sets in a surprising display of dominance for someone who had faced five break points in his first two service games.   Unable to convert any of his nine break points, Nishikori must have nourished little hope of a comeback, but Ferrer again fell behind 0-40 at that stage.  He nearly executed another miraculous escape before finally sending a backhand long to level the set.

Not maintaining the positive momentum for long, Nishikori dropped serve for the sixth time in seven games, although the rallies grew more intriguing as his effort level rose.  After Ferrer had led 40-0 in the sixth game, the revitalized Japanese star won five straight points to pull back on even terms, again dictating play by stepping inside his baseline and keeping the veteran well behind his.  The two men traded holds that set up a critical game at 4-4.  Nishikori survived several deuces and earned multiple game points to put Ferrer on the brink of serving to stay in the set.  As his unforced-error total climbed above 60, however, he could not hit through the Spaniard often enough to nudge ahead.

Ferrer served out the match at love with some well-placed first serves, advancing to his third straight Australian Open quarterfinal and his fifth straight major quarterfinal overall.  There, he will face either compatriot Nicolas Almagro or Janko Tipsarevic, against whom he played an epic quarterfinal that reached a fifth-set tiebreak at the US Open.

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