Crowd favourite Kei Nishikori enters Japan Open semi-finals

Crowd favourite Kei Nishikori and two-time finalist Milos Raonic both hammered out straight-sets wins on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Japan Open.

Crowd favourite Kei Nishikori enters Japan Open semi-finals

Tokyo: Crowd favourite Kei Nishikori and two-time finalist Milos Raonic both hammered out straight-sets wins on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the Japan Open.

Nishikori, last week`s champion in Kuala Lumpur a fortnight after playing the US Open final, claimed his seventh straight victory with his 6-4, 6-2 defeat of France`s Jeremy Chardy.

Canadian third seed Raonic overcame a slow start and needed to win an hour-long first set before beating Uzbek Denis Istomin 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.

Against Chardy, Nishikori bounced straight back from an early break for 0-2, quickly returning to 1-2 to get it back on serve.

A sellout crowd of more than 10,000 fans watched their hero break again for 5-4 before serving out the opening set on his second chance.

In the second set, Nishikori began with a break, raced to 4-1 before a medical timeout for lower back treatment, and finished off victory in just under 90 minutes as Chardy returned a serve long.

Nishikori is bidding to win his home event for the second time in three years.

He now plays a semi-final against German Benjamin Becker, who defeated Jack Sock 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Fourth seed Nishikori admitted he was tired, but added: "You are never in perfect condition. But my back should be OK for the rest of the week.

"Conditions for the match were tough with some wind, this was also my first match this week with the roof open. I had to get used to that.

"He played very aggressively, I had to adjust. But I hung in and made things happen, I`m very glad to get through in two sets."

Raonic`s win puts him into provisional eighth place in the points race to next month`s eight-man World Tour Finals in London. Nishikori, who would become the first Japanese to play the year-ender, stands sixth.

Five spots will be decided over the next four weeks of ATP play.

Raonic takes on Gilles Simon in the semis after the French player powered into his first ATP semi-final since the spring with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 defeat of American Steve Johnson.

Simon, 29, earned victory at the Ariake Coliseum with seven aces and conversions on three of nine break points.

"I`m feeling physically good, and that`s important for my game," said Simon, who has been frequently injured. "I had to fight in my first two matches this week but I got through them."

The French player has never been past the second round in two previous appearances in the Japanese capital.

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