TOKYO (Reuters) - Home favorite Kei Nishikori gave his fans a fright with an injury scare in the second set before recovering to beat Jeremy Chardy of France on Friday to remain on course for another Japan Open title.
The world number seven, who last month became the first Asian to reach a men’s grand slam singles final, dispatched the unseeded Chardy 6-4 6-2 in the quarter-finals to set up a last four meeting with Benjamin Becker of Germany.
U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori, who won his home title in 2012, called for the trainer when leading 3-1 in the second set after starting to limp in the lengthy fourth game.
The trainer vigorously worked on the Japanese’ back and legs and it appeared to do the trick as he wasted little time in wrapping up his seventh consecutive win after taking last week’s title in Kuala Lumpur.
Nishikori, who is sixth in the race to qualify for the eight-man season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, had pulled out of the doubles on Thursday night because of concerns about inflaming the glute muscle injury but said he was determined to continue in singles action.
“The cool answer would be to say I was doing it for the sake of Japan, but the truth is I want to play in London and I want the 500 points on offer here,” he told Japanese reporters when asked why he continued.
“It’s not the kind of injury that’s going to keep me from playing.”
In the other half the draw, Canadian Milos Raonic, whom Nishikori beat in 2012 to win the title, won through to the last four after a close fought battle with Uzbek Denis Istomin.
The big-serving third seed rained down 15 aces in the 7-6(8) 6-3 victory, with Istomin only able to win one point on the Raonic first serve.
A marathon first set tiebreak was finally settled when Istomin dumped a backhand into the net and Raonic grabbed the only break of the match in the second to leave him on course for a third consecutive Japan Open final.
The twice runner-up will next face Gilles Simon after the Frenchman beat American Steve Johnson in uncharacteristically straightforward manner, 7-6(4) 6-1.
Simon, one win away from his first final of the year, saved six match points in his opening victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, while he came back from a set and a break down to edge Gilles Muller in the second round.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty