Kei Nishikori was stunned by Jack Sock in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday as the Japanese star went crashing out of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.
Sock was under pressure early in his third meeting with Nishikori, but after holding serve from 15/40 in the first game, the Kansas resident then broke Nishikori to 15 and went on to seal the opening set.
Breaks for Nishikori in the fourth and eighth games of the second set saw him level the contest, but Sock immediately regained control in the third set, breaking in the first game.
Sock then earned a second break as he converted his fifth break point in an almost 10-minute fifth game and it proved decisive, as he went on to serve out victory in one hour and 48 minutes.
Speaking afterwards Sock could hardly hide his delight. And who can blame him? The win was his first against a top five player.
“To get my first semi at one of my favourite tournaments of the year, it feels very special to play in front of the home crowd,” said Sock.
“It's so great here. They really get behind you and support not only me, but all of the Americans as well. Just to advance and keep going, play another match, feels good.
“When I played him here last and I played him in Basel a couple years ago, I don't think I went on the court giving myself a ton of chances of winning. I think that's changed, for sure.
“Obviously he's playing incredible tennis not only this year, but this week. But on the flip side of that, I am playing confident tennis as well myself. If I go out there and play the right tennis and the right strategy, I think I can give myself a shot.”
On the contrary, Nishikori was bitterly disappointed but acknowledged that the better player on the day had won.
“I think he served really well. I was having really tough time with my return, missing a lot, and giving him a lot of short balls. And he was attacking really well in the first and third sets,” said Nishikori.
“I didn’t play my best tennis, but I think he played good tennis also.”
Sock meets with Roger Federer in the semi-finals after the Swiss sensation advanced when Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the tournament.
In the other semi-final, Stan Wawrinka will play Pablo Carreño Busta.