Jordan Thompson’s gradual step-by-step development has won a fan in Kei Nishikori but the blossoming Sydney baseliner faces the biggest test of his blossoming career against the world No.5 on Friday.
Thompson is the last Australian left in the Brisbane International after making the most of his wildcard and will meet the nimble Japanese third seed in his maiden ATP quarter-final at Pat Rafter Arena.
The 22-year-old is ranked 74 spots lower than Nishikori but gives himself a solid chance of producing a second straight upset following his stirring second-round triumph over eighth-seeded David Ferrer.
Thompson outlasted the wily Spanish veteran in two hours 44 minutes, outpointing him at the death in a series of tense marathon rallies.
A four-tournament victor on the Challenger tour last year, he will need to do the same against rabbit-like Nishikori who is among the fastest and best movers on the ATP tour.
But Nishikori is wary of the threat, especially as Thompson has been able to display composure, consistency and confidence in his wins over Ferrer and Swede Ymer Elias.
“I think it was great match against David. I think he’s playing great, great tennis,” he said.
“We (have) practised together many times.
“He has great serve and very steady from the groundstrokes. He doesn’t miss much. I think it’s gonna be many long rallies.
“It’s not gonna be easy.”
While Thompson played at the Olympics last year, he only has five match wins on the ATP tour after taking his time to progress from the juniors to Futures to making a name for himself and on the Challenger tour.
“I think it’s great for tennis,” Nishikori said. “It’s great to see someone like that.”
Thompson was the the last Aussie left standing in Brisbane after fellow wildcard Sam Groth was dispatched by world No.8 Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
Thiem will take on Grigor Dimitrov in the last eight after the Bulgarian defeated Nicolas Mahut 6-2-6-4 on Thursday.
Most eyes will be on the last quarter-final where top seed Milos Raonic will put his title defence on the line to Rafael Nadal who thrashed German stalwart Mischa Zverev 6-1 6-1 on Thursday night.
In the women’s semi-finals, third seed Karolina Pliskova will play Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina while unseeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet will try to continue her giant-killing run against world No.7 Garbine Muguruza.