Tokyo - Baby-faced assassins Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori both roared into
the quarter-finals of the Japan Open on Thursday to remain on course for
a repeat of last year's final.
Third seed Raonic, beaten by local
hero Nishikori in the 2012 final, overpowered Frenchman Jeremy Chardy
6-4, 6-3, as bright sunshine returned to Tokyo Bay and the roof was
finally opened on centre court after a wet start to the $1.43 million
Fourth seed Nishikori sent Spain's Feliciano Lopez packing
with a 7-6, 6-0 victory, extending his winning streak on the Ariake
hard-court to 10 in Japan Open and Davis Cup competition with a
Never remotely threatened, world number 11
Raonic did not face a single break point and put Chardy out of his
misery with his 17th ace after 76 minutes.
"I feel so comfortable
on this court I almost don't have to think," said the Canadian, coming
off his fifth career title in Bangkok last weekend. He faces lucky loser
Lukas Lacko in the last eight.
"Lukas has nothing to lose. He
made the draw in a fortunate situation and made the most of it. He's
dangerous so I'll have to play very tight and disciplined."
Lacko beat qualifier Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-5, 6-4 to boost his
earnings for the week to $32,000 so far since winning the coin toss to
replace injured Frenchman Michael Llodra in the main draw.
took seven minutes less than Raonic to advance, taking the first set
tiebreak 7-4 with an ace down the middle before dishing out the dreaded
"bagel" to Lopez in a 21-minute second set.
He completed the job with a thundering forehand return.
didn't feel happy at all about winning a second-round match," said
world number 13 Nishikori, who became the host country's first Japan
Open winner last year.
"Probably because I'm the defending champion - I know there's a long way to go.
my home court," added the 23-year-old, steadily rediscovering his form
after a nightmare hard-court season which culminated in a shock
first-round exit from the US Open.
"I went through some of the
biggest mental trauma of my career this summer but I've sorted my head
out and I'm finding my rhythm again."
Nishikori burst onto the
scene as an 18-year-old by winning in Delray Beach as a 244th-ranked
qualifier in 2008, becoming the first Japanese man to win an ATP title
since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1992.
He plays Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the last eight after the sixth seed thrashed Argentina's Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 6-2.
seed Juan Martin del Potro safely reached the quarter-finals on
Wednesday, before former Tokyo champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga suffered a
shock second-round defeat.
Wimbledon champion Andy Murray withdrew to undergo minor back surgery set to keep the Scot out for the rest of the year.
Japan Open has boasted a glittering list of champions since Ken
Rosewall lifted the trophy in 1973 when it became an official tour
event. Stefan Edberg holds the record with four wins, including three in
a row from 1989-1991.
John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras
have all won the title, while Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Murray have
triumphed in recent years.