One of the four quarter-final bouts taking place this afternoon in Tokyo is an intriguing contest between top Japanese star Kei Nishikori (Player Info) and Nicolas Almagro (Player Info). The two meet for the just the second time on the professional tour, with Nishikori besting him in Kuala Lumpur two years back. Nishikori vs Almagro Head to Head stands at 1-0 in the Japanese favour.
Sixth-seeded Almagro defeated Benjamin Becker in a tight opening match and comfortably eased past Horacio Zeballos to make his first ever quarterfinals at the Japan Open. The Spaniard had previously held a 1-3 record at this tournament and had never made it past the second round. Almagro impressed with his strong serve throughout the match, where he hit 10 aces and 21 of his 22 first serve points to win the match 6-4, 6-2 in 64 minutes.
After starting the year off by reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time in his career and reaching a high of No. 11, Almagro’s season took a turn for the worse and he is currently ranked at No. 19 and has not won a single title this year even though he had reached two finals. He will be determined to overcome the Japanese No. 1 for the first time and continue his impressive winning streak in China. He is currently placed 14th in the Race to London for the World Tour Finals.
Nishikori has arguably had an underwhelming season this year, yet had now made the quarterfinal (or better) of four ATP tournaments this year. The fourth seed picked up his lone title of the season in Memphis earlier in the year and has failed to make the semifinals of any tournament after that.
The World No. 13 has also made an impressive run at Tokyo this year as he defeated Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Feliciano Lopez to reach his first quarterfinal in Beijing. His win over Lopez was a particularly dominant one as he won the second set without dropping a single game and losing only eight point to avenge his loss two months prior to the Spaniard. The contest last a mere 70 minutes.
The two have only met on the indoor hard court surface in Kuala Lumpur, where the fourth seed defeated Almagro in the quarterfinal after being down a set. This will likely be a similar encounter with both players likely to have their opportunities to advance to the semifinals.