Miami - Japan's Kei Nishikori saved five
match points to down Gael Monfils on Thursday and advance into a semi-final
showdown with Australian Nick Kyrgios at the ATP and WTA Miami Open.
Two-time Grand Slam champions Victoria
Azarenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova reached the women's final with straight-set
triumphs, but the top drama came in sixth seed Nishikori's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)
victory over the French 16th seed.
Nishikori denied Monfils four times in the
10th game of the final set and again in the 12th before taking the last three
tie-breaker points to end a tension-packed thriller after two hours and 29
"I thought, 'That's it. It's going to
be tough to come back,'" Nishikori said. "But I tried to play one
good point at a time. I had to focus to come back and I did it."
Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, will
play on Friday for a berth in Sunday's final against 24th seed Kyrgios, who ousted
Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
"I have to return well whenever
possible to get on his serve," Nishikori said. "That's going to be
the key for sure."
Kyrgios, at 20, will become the youngest
player in the world top 20 since 2009 on Monday.
"It's pretty cool. I'm happy with
that," Kyrgios said. "But there's 19 guys in front of me."
Coming off his first ATP title in February
at Marseille, Kyrgios is into his first ATP Masters Series semi-final but must
face a veteran in Nishikori, who won their only prior meeting last year in
"It's exciting to play one of the best
players in the world," Kyrgios said. "He has got an unbelievable
return of serve, moves unbelievably fast. It's going to be a tough match."
Top-ranked defending champion Novak
Djokovic of Serbia plays Belgian 15th seed David Goffin in the other
Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 Australian Open
champion from Belarus, defeated reigning Australian Open champion Angelique
Kerber of Germany 6-2, 7-5, while Russian 30-year-old Kuznetsova, the 2004 US
Open and 2009 French Open champion, beat Swiss 19th seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5,
"It's a final so anything can happen.
It's a match where you give it all," Azarenka said. "She is such a
talented player. It's going to be a challenge but I'm ready for it."
Kuznetsova and Azarenka have split eight
career meetings, but Azarenka has won the past three without dropping a set,
most recently in the 2013 Australian Open semis.
"Vika, she is doing amazing,"
Kuznetsova said. "She is extremely prepared, playing really confident,
taking all her chances."
Monfils had three early match points in the
10th game, only to fire errant backhands each time, and Nishikori rescued a
fourth with a forehand winner then saved a fifth in the 12th game with a
forehand winner, setting up the tie-breaker.
Trailing 4-3 in the tie-breaker, Monfils
netted a forehand volley and sent another forehand long before Nishikori ended
it with a forehand winner.
"I had the opportunity to close it out
but Kei played strong," Monfils said. "He fought well. In the
breaker, he was just better than me."
Kyrgios took the only break of his match in
the opening game when Raonic hit a forehand wide.
"I came out energetic and got the
break," Kyrgios said. "That got me more relaxed. I played really
Kyrgios held serve through the first set
and won the tie-breaker when Raonic netted forehands on the last two points.
"He came up with big shots in the
important moments," Raonic said. "And that's what it came down
Azarenka, ranked eighth, improved to 7-1
against Kerber, the only loss coming in this year's Australian Open
quarter-finals, by breaking the second seed three times in the first set and
four in the second.
"I kept pounding and trying to break
her rhythm," Azarenka said. "I'm glad I stayed really strong."
Azarenka, the 2009 and 2011 Miami champion,
will crack the world top five for the first time since May 2014 and could
become only the third woman to win Miami and Indian Wells back-to-back after
Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996 and Kim Clijsters in 2005.
Kuznetsova, the 2006 Miami winner, ousted
top-ranked Serena Williams in the fourth round while Azarenka downed Williams
in the Indian Wells final.
Kuznetsova, at 19th, is the lowest-ranked
Miami finalist since 2005, but she would jump into the world top 10 for the
first time since May 2010 by taking the title.
Scores on Thursday from the 10th day of the ATP and WTA Miami Open (x denotes seeded player):
Kei Nishikori (JPN x6) bt Gael Monfils (FRA x16) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)
Nick Kyrgios (AUS x24) bt Milos Raonic (CAN x12) 6-4, 7-6 (7/4)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS x15) bt Timea Bacsinszky (SUI x19) 7-5, 6-3
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x13) bt Angelique Kerber (GER x2) 6-2, 7-5