Three-time former champion Rafael Nadal is through to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open after surviving an early onslaught to defeat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3 on Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The Spaniard will face either World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the final of the first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season.
The 29-year-old Nadal is bidding to reach the final in Indian Wells for the fifth time. Winner of 27 Masters 1000 crowns, Nadal lifted the trophy at the BNP Paribas Open in 2007 (d. Djokovic), 2009 (d. Murray) and 2013 (d. Del Potro); he also finished runner-up to Djokovic in 2011.
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The left-hander was under pressure early from the fifth-seeded Nishikori, who captured his 11thATP World Tour title in Memphis last month (d. Fritz). The Japanese star broke early and had points for a 4-1 double-break lead, before Nadal found his groove.
The Manacor native fought back to level at 3-3 and from 4-4 reeled off five straight games to steal the opener and take a commanding lead in the second set. Nadal had a point for 4-0, before Nishikori halted his momentum. After getting a foothold in the set, Nishikori then brought himself back into contention with a break in the seventh game. But Nadal regained his advantage in the following game and served out victory in one hour and 33 minutes.
Tellingly, fourth seed Nadal landed 88 per cent of his first serves and won 46 per cent of his return points, ultimately winning 12 points more than Nishikori.
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