Seventh seed Kei Nishikori fired a warning shot to the remainder of the Australian Open field when he hammered ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets on Sunday.
The pair had met twice previously in grand slams, with each match requiring five sets to find a winner. Any hopes of another tight match were quickly dismissed as Nishikori perfectly executed an attacking game plan to down Tsonga 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and book his spot in the quarter-finals.
Nishikori raced to a 5-2 advantage in the first set on the back of two breaks that came courtesy of intense pressure placed on Tsonga, pushing the Frenchman back in the court and not allowing him to impose himself on the encounter.
Serving for the set, Nishikori stumbled briefly, going from 40-0 up to losing his serve. It would prove a momentary blip as the Japan ace served out the set at the second time of asking.
Nishikori had break points on the Tsonga serve in every game in the second set, converting in the third and fifth games to take the set 6-2 having belted 12 winners and won 80 percent of points on his own serve.
Tsonga took a medical timeout after the second set, but it didn’t appear to stymie Nishikori’s momentum at all as he continued to fire winner after winner, taking the opening game to love before breaking Tsonga in the following up.
The desperate situation seemed to bring out the best of Tsonga, with the former Australian Open semi-finalist stepping up his aggression. However, while the number of winners off the Tsonga racquet increased, so did the unforced errors, and this allowed Nishikori to remain on top.
Nishikori needed three match points to finish the job, eventually doing so in two hours and two minutes.
The 2014 US Open finalist will now face either world number one Novak Djokovic or French 14th seed Gilles Simon in the last eight.
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