WASHINGTON: Japan’s Kei Nishikori battled through a second challenging three-set test on Thursday to reach an ATP Washington Open quarter-final against a foe he has never beaten, Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Fourth-seeded Nishikori outlasted Slovakian Lukas Lacko 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 while sixth seed Gasquet downed American Tim Smyczek 6-3, 6-2.
That will send two of the three top remaining seeds in the $1.9 million hardcourt event against each other to decide a semi-final berth.
“I’m sure it’s going to be the toughest match this week,” said Nishikori. “I’ve never beaten him so it’s going to be a big challenge.”
Gasquet, ranked 14th, is 4-0 all-time against 11th-ranked Nishikori, having dropped only one set to him. But this will be the nearest to a final they have met.
“He [Gasquet] has a great serve, strong forehand and backhand and he’s very talented,” said Nishikori. “I have to serve better than I did today [Thursday].”
Meanwhile, Czech top seed Tomas Berdych was ousted from the ATP and WTA Washington Open on Thursday, falling 6-2, 6-4 to Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in a third-round match.
“That was not one of my best,” said Berdych, who is ranked fifth in the world. “It’s something that needs to be dealt with and go on. I need to move on and work even harder.”
In another match, Wimbledon semi-finalist Milos Raonic fired 27 aces in a 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/3) victory over Australian Lleyton Hewitt that put the second-seeded Canadian in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, South African seventh seed Kevin Anderson downed Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-4. He next plays US left-hander Donald Young, who outlasted Uzbek Denis Istomin 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Venus topples Azarenka in Stanford
Seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams ousted fourth-seeded birthday girl Victoria Azarenka in straight sets on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the WTA hardcourt tournament at Stanford.
The 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) triumph kept Venus on course for a possible semi-final showdown with her sister Serena.
“Williams-Williams semi-final, hopefully,” Venus told the crowd at the campus of Stanford University, where she came out on top in a hard-fought, physical duel with Azarenka that lasted an hour and 42 minutes.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.
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