Reigning champion Kei Nishikori moved into the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open on Friday with 6-2 3-6 6-1 win over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
The Japanese is the heavy favourite to retain his title after Rafael Nadal’s shock defeat to Fabio Fognini on Thursday and impressively romped through the deciding set after being forced all the way for the first time this week.
Nishikori eased through the first set after breaking in the first game, but Bautista Agut responded by breaking for 4-2 in the second and held off three break points to serve out for the set.
The world No.5 upped his game in the third, as the depth and power of his groundstrokes forced Bautista Agut onto the back foot.
Nishikori cruised through the final five games to take his place in the last four where he will meet Tommy Robredo or Martin Klizan.
“In the second set, he started to play well and I had to raise my level a little bit,” said Nishikori.
“I concentrated really well in the third set, got ahead early and came through really strong in the end.”