Tokyo - Marin Cilic produced a master class
on Thursday as he overpowered American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-3 to set up a Japan
Open quarter-final against defending champion Kei Nishikori.
Meanwhile, tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios
brutalised Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut, the muscular Australian taking less
than an hour to complete a 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory in Tokyo with some
equally strong-arm tactics.
Sixth seed Cilic beat the Japanese
superstar in last year's US Open final and the Croatian - who also reached the
semi-finals in New York last month - showed enough against Johnson to suggest
Nishikori will face a severe test on Friday.
Johnson had no answer to the power and
guile of the street-wise Cilic, who clinched the first set with a cleverly
disguised chip-and-charge that forced his tormented opponent into a panicked
forehand he got horribly wrong.
An exquisite lob earned Cilic a break at
the start of the second and such was Johnson's frustration he slammed a ball
out of the waterside arena to pick up a code violation.
His mood darkened as Cilic caught fire,
ending with a flurry of passing shots, capped by a thunderous forehand on match
point to wrap up victory in just 73 minutes.
"It will be very special to play Kei
in Tokyo for the first time," said Cilic, who is chasing a first title of
the year and the 14th of his career.
"We played a close match in Washington
earlier this year and Kei won that one, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I
just hope I can play as well as I did today."
Kyrgios has been introduced by the local
Japanese cable broadcaster showing the Japan Open this week as: "Genius?
Or problem child?"
But despite the controversy that follows
the temperamental Aussie around the men's ATP Tour, he behaved impeccably
against Bautista Agut, the highlight a between-the-legs half volley to secure a
break at the start of the second set.
Kyrgios, fined recently for sexual insult
aimed at Stan Wawrinka's girlfriend during a match against the Swiss, closed
out the match with a pummelling serve down the middle after just 56 minutes on
"I guess I've been doing it all of my
short career," said the Australian of his show-boating style. "I love
entertaining the crowd and I hope to put on a show again tomorrow."
Top seed Wawrinka is not scheduled to face
Kyrgios until the final in Tokyo in what would make for a spicy encounter.
He and Nishikori both had the day off after
booking their places in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.