Nishikori, Ferrer reach Barcelona Open semis

Barcelona: Defending champion and top seed Kei Nishikori advanced to the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, but David Ferrer and Pablo Andujar kept the home country’s hopes alive with quarter-final victories.

Like he did in his previous match against Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo, the 25-year-old Nishikori got off to a fast start on Friday at this Spanish clay-court event, breaking the seventh-seeded Bautista Agut’s serve in the opening game and wrapping up the first set in less than a half-hour, reports Efe.

The Spaniard, however, began serving better in the second set, and his strategy of hitting out more aggressively with his forehand proved effective and enabled him to force the decider.

But the match quickly slipped from Bautista Agut’s grasp in the third set, when the world No.5 used his rock-solid ground strokes to reel off five straight games.

“I’m really happy with the way I’m playing right now, especially in the third set,” Nishikori said afterward. “It was a really tough match.”

Bautista Agut also lost to Nishikori in three sets in the second round of last year’s event, when he was the only player to take a set off the Japanese star.

Next up for the top seed in Saturday’s semi-finals will be Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, who saved all six break points he faced in defeating Spaniard Tommy Robredo 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 in quarterfinal action.

The third-seeded Ferrer, for his part, overcame a stern test from Kohlschreiber in an entertaining and tightly contested match, wrapping up a 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory in one hour and 44 minutes.

The second set began in bizarre fashion with six service breaks in the first seven games, but the 33-year-old Ferrer was the more solid player in the tiebreaker and is now two matches away from his first Barcelona Open title.

“Now I am in the semi-final, and I’m very happy for that,” said Ferrer, who has lost in the finals of this event on four occasions, each time to clay king and compatriot Rafael Nadal.

Standing in his way next will be countryman Andujar, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who stunned Nadal, the No. 2 seed and eight-time champion, in third-round action on Thursday.