Nishikori targets Murray
Originally published on 06/06/17 00:00
The Japanese, who will take on Andy Murray for an 11th time on Wednesday, has now reached the second week of his last six majors. The 2014 US Open runner-up is always a contender, but he is still seeking a career-defining success.
The No.8 seed is expecting another close match with an opponent he defeated in a thrilling five-set battle at the US Open last year. “We have played so many times," said Nishikori. "He's a great player, a very smart tennis player. It's never easy, and I think this week he's been playing well. So I'm sure it's going be tough one, but I will try to enjoy it and try to win the match."
Murray was fulsome in his praise of the skilled Japanese shotmaker and he believes their latest duel could be lengthy. "There's a good chance it's going to be a long one,” admitted the world No.1. “He returns well and he's very solid off both wings – he's always a tough guy to play against.”
In recent years, Nishikori has been hit with a steady stream of niggling injuries. He appeared to hurt his back during his third-round match with Hyeon Chung however a lengthy rain interruption gave him the opportunity to regroup and recover.
The Japanese has struggled with his serve throughout the tournament and it could be linked to a physical issue. He has won just 48% of second serve points and Murray – a world class returner – will look to take full advantage.
The other quarter-final in the top half of the draw is between Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic. Both players have reached the last eight without dropping a set, and a big-hitting scrap is expected.
Rather surprisingly, Cilic has a terrible record against the 2015 champion. He has won just two of 13 previous meetings and it’s been seven years since he lasted tasted victory.
However, the Croatian, who has never been beaten Wawrinka on a clay-court, is brimming with confidence. He said: “Apart from the US Open in 2014, I'm definitely feeling the best on the court. Even at that tournament, the US Open, I didn't go through the draw as comfortably as here.
“With the way I'm playing, I just feel great on the court. It's such a big pleasure for me to see that I have managed to continue with that good form through the tournament.”
In the women’s draw, Caroline Garcia will take on Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the semi-finals. Garcia is now the only Frenchwoman left in the competition, and she will enjoy plenty of support from the locals on Philippe-Chatrier Court.
“Pliskova is now well known,” said Garcia. “I played a few times against her. We have trained together, I know her game. Clay may not be her preferred surface, but she has a lot of experience, she stays very calm and she's been in quarter-finals of Grand Slam tournaments before.”
In the other quarter-final, Simona Halep will take on Elina Svitolina in a re-run of last month’s Rome final. The two players are amongst the best movers and defenders in the game, so it will likely be a pulsating clash filled with punishing baseline exchanges.
The Ukrainian will hope that the back injury she sustained in her fourth round win over Petra Martic will not hinder her chances of reaching a first ever Grand Slam semi-final.