Nadal beats Nishikori, to face Djokovic in semis

Fri Mar 18, 2016 11:11pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Fourth seed Rafa Nadal survived a few anxious moments before booking his place in the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open with a see-sawing 6-4 6-3 victory over Japanese Kei Nishikori in California on Friday.

The Spanish left-hander, a three-times champion at Indian Wells, will next meet top-seeded Serb Novak Djokovic, who battled past Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(2) 7-6(2) in the last of the quarter-finals.

Djokovic, the world number one and defending champion, improved his stellar record for the year to 20-1 as he seeks a fifth title at Indian Wells.

Nadal fought back from 1-3 down and 15-40 on serve in the opening set, then held off a late fightback by Nishikori in the second to prevail after a little more than an hour and a half at the sun-baked Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

"The first set was very important," 14-times grand slam winner Nadal said in a courtside interview with ESPN. "At 15-40 for one double break for him, that was the key moment and after that I started to play with higher balls, slower balls.

"I changed a little bit the rhythm of the match and I think I played well."

After leveling at 4-4 in the first set, Nadal won the next five games to take command before his fifth-seeded opponent clawed his way back with a break in the seventh to trail 3-4.

Nadal, however, immediately regained his advantage in the eighth game after Nishikori netted a backhand, and the Spaniard served out for the victory, ending the match with a forehand winner down the line.

Djokovic delivered his usual blend of brilliant defense and precise shot-making to wear down an error-prone Tsonga in a match that lasted just over two hours.   Continued...

Mar 18, 2016; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Rafael Nadal (ESP) during his quarter final match against Kei Nishikori (JPN) in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports