An interesting match-up is scheduled to take place in the semi-final round of the Barcelona Open, as Japanese No.1 Kei Nishikori and world No. 23 Ernests Gulbis meet for the first time on the professional tour. Their only previous encounter took place over six years ago on the Challengers circuit, which Nishikori won, but that is not likely to impact their performances on Friday afternoon.
World No. 17 Kei Nishikori cruised into the final four in Barcelona with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over towering Croat Marin Cilic. It was a dominant performance from the top ranked Japanese star, who had previously beaten Cilic this season in the Brisbane International quarter-finals. Nishikori hit 2 aces and won 75% of his first service points en route to a straight sets victory in 1 hour and 11 minutes.
World No. 23 Ernests Gulbis advanced to the semi-final round of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell on Friday when the top Latvian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-1, 6-4 in 89 minutes. It marked his third ATP World Tour semi-final (or better) so far this season. Gulbis hit 1 ace, won 73% of his first service points and even managed to save all five of the break points he faced during the match.
After beginning his clay court season with a loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening round in Monte Carlo, the ninth seed has recovered fantastically, as he is now one win away from reaching the Barcelona finals for the first time in his career. Gulbis has already lifted one title so far this season, the Open 13, and has also reached the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament semi-finals. He will now look to reach his second final of the season when he faces the Japanese No. 1 on Saturday afternoon.
This marks the first time that Nishikori and Gulbis will cross paths on the ATP World Tour. While Gulbis is a threat to any competitor, Nishikori has really managed to fine tune himself so far this season under the tutelage of Michael Chang, and will likely find a way to overcome the top ranked Latvian en route to his second final of the season.
Prediction: Kei Nishikori in Three Sets