Nadal thrashes Nishikori to set up Federer showdown

Seventh seed Kei Nishikori could not get close to Rafael Nadal as the defending French Open champion moved into the last four.

Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory against Kei Nishikori in the French Open quarterfinals.   -  Getty Images

Defending champion Rafael Nadal sent a clear message to his French Open rivals as he dismantled Kei Nishikori to seal a semifinal showdown with Roger Federer.

Chasing his 12th title in Paris, the world number two made ludicrously light work of the usually dangerous Nishikori, who appeared to be nursing an injury at the end of the second set.

Nadal showed no mercy as he went after his opponent time and again for his most impressive, dominant win of the tournament so far.

READ | Johanna Konta first British woman to reach French Open semifinal since 1983

A rain delay frustrated Nadal in the third set, yet he breezed through 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 when play restarted.

Federer awaits Nadal in the last four after seeing off compatriot Stan Wawrinka, but even he is likely to fear the favourite in this form.

Nadal was relentless from the off and broke Nishikori in his opening service game before applying further pressure and seeing the Japanese send a tired backhand into the net.

A highly motivated Nadal served out the opener inside 35 minutes and did not let his energy levels drop in the opening game of the second, breaking to love thanks to Nishikori's sloppiness.

There was finally a response as Nishikori went on the offensive to forge a couple of opportunities of his own and break back, only to again lash into the net to slip behind once more.

A bemused Nishikori simply could not live with Nadal, the struggling seventh seed twice more dropping serve before going long to conclude another swift set.

Having called his trainer before returning to the court, Nishikori created and squandered four break points at the start of the third as any hope of taking this match the distance soon dissipated.

ALSO READ | Chang expects more underarm serves, 30 years since Ivan Lendl clash

Although Nishikori battled back to hold the next game, only the threat of rain looked like it might hinder Nadal's progress.

The seemingly decisive break arrived with a Nishikori mishit and Nadal, aware of the looming grey clouds, raced towards the finish, only to be frustrated as the weather saw play suspended.

An hour-long delay could not save Nishikori, though, as his outstanding opponent quickly wrapped up victory.

Nishikori tired of being 'stuck' in Slam quarters

Kei Nishikori admitted Tuesday that the dominance of the 'big three' of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer has left him “stuck in the quarterfinals of Grand Slams” after another last-eight exit.

“I have got to keep trying to work, to finish in straight sets, but that means maybe I'm not good enough tennis-wise and also mental-wise,” said the 29-year-old Japanese.

“I just have to keep working. I'm always stuck in the quarter-finals in Grand Slams, and I think the next goal is to be in the semi-final or final.”

“I wish I could finish in three sets,” said Nishikori, whose lifetime combined record against Nadal, Djokovic and Federer now stands at just seven wins against 34 defeats.

“For sure I played too many hours on the court here and Rafa didn't let me play how I wanted to play. If I'm not fresh, it's not easy to stay with him. He hit very heavy, and he was serving well. He made me play every point. Even to get one game, it felt like it was a very long time to get it.”

Nadal gave Nishikori words of encouragement, insisting that his presence in the world top 10 for five of the last six years is testament to his staying power.

“He's always a very good player always. Five years ago, he played the final of the US Open.

“I feel that everybody's dangerous. And Kei is seven in the world. So he (is) the world's seventh most dangerous player in the world today.”

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
 

Rafael Nadal [2] bt Kei Nishikori [7] 6-1, 6-1, 6-3

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal - 29/22
Nishikori - 17/30

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal - 3/3
Nishikori - 2/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal - 7/11
Nishikori - 1/5

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal - 72
Nishikori - 72

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal - 76/52
Nishikori - 44/50

TOTAL POINTS
Nadal - 88
Nishikori - 55