Nishikori still happy despite quarter-final exit
KEI Nishikori hit the wall at the Australian Open yesterday, deflating his devoted Asian supporters as he was roughed up by Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.
The Swiss defending champion was just too strong for the fifth seed, rattling off a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) win in just over two hours.
It means Wawrinka has a semi-final date with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who beat Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2, while Nishikori exits after falling at his first big hurdle at Melbourne Park.
Much had been expected of the Florida-based Nishikori after he beat Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic to reach the United States Open final in September.
But apart from Wawrinka's nervous conceding five match points in the third-set tiebreaker, it was all one-way traffic.
"I felt a little bit tired, heavy. Mentally, I was fine and ready to go. But he was a little better today," Nishikori, 25, conceded.
It was a far cry from the last time the pair met in the quarter-finals of the US Open, when the Japanese won in five sets.
This time, he coughed up three service breaks, made more errors than winners, 31-23, and lost the majority of the longer rallies, usually his bread and butter.
"I didn't start well. First couple of games, I was missing so much, so many unforced errors. I was going for too much," Nishikori said. "I don't know. I may have felt a little bit of pressure."
Now that he is the hunted at No. 5 rather than the hunter, Nishikori said he is feeling more heat. "Everybody is going to be tough from now, because everybody is coming over 100 per cent," he said. "Even first couple matches I had were really tough. Obviously they're going to put in 100 per cent from the beginning."
Despite the defeat, Nishikori was overall happy with his 10 days' work here.
"It wasn't really a bad week. It's not easy come quarter-final time at the Grand Slams," he said.
"I have to keep doing this. I could be better. But I need more of these experiences, playing tough all the time, playing a lot of matches. Especially in Grand Slam, there is more pressure."
In women's action, top seed Serena Williams destroyed last year's finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 to reach the last four.
The emphatic win sets up a clash with unseeded American teenager Madison Keys, who beat Williams' older sister Venus 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in another quarter-final.