Japanese superstar Kei Nishikori swept into the last eight at the Australian Open Monday to tee up a match with defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
Nishikori had a relatively comfortable win over Spanish terrier David Ferrer to advance to his third Grand Slam quarter-final.
The US Open finalist won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena and will now play Swiss world number four Wawrinka for a place in the semi-finals.
Nishikori expected a longer match with the tenacious Ferrer, but has now beaten the Spanish ninth seed and former Australian semi-finalist in their past five encounters.
“It actually felt a little bit weird on the court because I usually play longer matches against him,” Nishikori said.
“I played really comfortable on the court. I had a lot of confidence going into this match and I was playing really aggressive with a good forehand, and serving really well.
“It’s not like I’m always the favourite to play against him. But today was a little bit different.”
Nishikori has a losing 1-2 record against Wawrinka but defeated the Swiss on the way to becoming the first Asian man to play in a Grand Slam final at the US Open last year.
He is nevertheless wary of the threat he poses.
“It’s going to be a really tough match because he is playing really good,” he said.
“He can hit balls forehand, backhand, a great backhand actually. He can hit anywhere, even from the back.
“But I’m in the quarter-finals, so there are never easy matches coming up. Hopefully I can play another good match.”
It was a strong performance by the Japanese icon, who hit 43 winners and restricted Ferrer to just 14 winners.
He broke the Spaniard’s serve six times and lost his service just once, while winning 72 percent of his first serves.
Significantly, Nishikori won the majority of the nine shots or more rallies, which usually are the domain of the tigerish Ferrer.
Nishikori said he feels uneasy with the number five world ranking after winning four ATP Tour titles last year.
“It’s just a number. But still I’m really new to be number five,” he said. “It’s been only a couple of months with this ranking. I just am not comfortable.
“I was top 10 early last year. This is pretty new for me. So I need some time to get more experience. I might feel the pressure, but I think I need some more time to get used to it.”