Nishikori raises the bar on his way to the semis

nishikori 2012 tokyo

On to the semis for Nishikori.

LONDON — Milos Raonic was gone even before he started on Thursday, when the Canadian pulled out with a quad injury against Kei Nishikori. Even though Raonic was played very tight against the two younger guys, he knew that Raonic was a bit hurt so maybe he could run into the court him and run him around very quickly.

But he has to face David Ferrer instead, who was in a sub, and while the Spaniard had no chance at moving into the semis, he fought anyway, even if he had not played extremely well this year.

Nishikori was 1-1, taking out Andy Murray and losing to Roger Federer. He had a good chance reaching the final based on his two victories in the round robin, losing only two Federer. He has playing very well and seemingly not thinking about a faceoff with the likes of Djokovic and the Swiss.

The 25-year-old has been the youngest singles player at the ATP Finals this season, not only because he reached the US Open final, but because he knocked off a number of fine players. One was the former No. 4 Ferrer, who he beat him on three occasions and all three sets in Masters Series events: 7-6(9) in Miami; 6-3 in Madrid; and 6-4 in Paris, just two weeks ago.

Nishikori is about as fast as any player, and while he was running and hitting the corners as hard as he could, Ferrer was very good overall and jumping on top of his forehands. Both men can go either which way, but the Japanese is more creative when it comes to his backhand. Ferrer likes to grind out points, but he decided to counterpunch his foe on Thursday. So when Nishikori was banging away, the Spaniard looked calmer and it showed as he kissed his lines and won the set 6-4.

But Nishikori regrouped and he began to charge. He set up inside the baseline, cleaned up his backhands and served with more speed. He decided that — win or lose — he was going to swing as hard as he could. He did and after he won the second set 6-4. From that point, he was flying. He won the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, dancing with a big grin.

“It’s never easy playing against David because he’s very consistent from the baseline,” said Nishikori. “If I want to win, I have to do something to break his tennis. From the second set, I was more aggressive. The final set was almost perfect.”

Now Nishikori will play on Saturday against Novak Djokovic, who destroyed Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-2 and clinched the yearend No. 1 for the third time in four years. Nishikori has said that someday he would like to reach No. 1 someday, but he is a long way off. Still, if he can whip Djokovic, then we will begin to discuss 2015.

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