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Shanghai surprise Nishikori meets Murray in semis

October 14, 2011 20:28 IST

Kei Nishikori reached his first Masters Series semi-final with a commanding 6-4, 6-3 victory over Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov on Friday, underlining his imminent status as Japan's highest-ranked player ever on the ATP Tour.

The 21-year-old, earmarked by many as a future top-10 player, will rise from 47th to around 32 in the world when the next set of rankings are released on Monday, eclipsing the 46th spot reached by Shuzo Matsuoka in 1992.

Awaiting the high-flying Asian star in the Shanghai Masters semi-finals is world number four Andy Murray, who comfortably ended Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden's dream run with a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 victory in the Qi Zhong Stadium.

Kei NishikoriDefending champion Murray became flustered initially against a composed world number 124, losing his cool in the opening games, but proved he was a class above Ebden as he closed in on a third consecutive title on the Asian swing having won in Bangkok and Tokyo.

The top half of the draw has an all-Spanish semi-final after David Ferrer beat American Andy Roddick 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 and Feliciano Lopez brushed aside top seed Rafa Nadal's third-round conqueror Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-4.

Nishikori, who had already achieved his best Masters Series run by beating Colombia's Santiago Giraldo on Thursday, withstood nine aces from the 12th seeded Dolgopolov and saved six of the seven break points against him.

"It means a lot to play semis here. I'm really excited now. I started well today. I knew he's going to hit a lot of slice shots and I had to be careful," Nishikori, who is coached by Murray's former coach Brad Gilbert, told reporters.

"It's been a great year for me. I will get to my highest ranking. To be the number one player in Japan means a lot. Now it's the semis here, one of the biggest tournaments for me."

Looking ahead to his first encounter with Murray, Nishikori said it would be a formidable test.

"Andy has won two tournaments in a row, and beating Nadal (in Japan). It's going to be tough. I've never played him but I'm going to ask my coach. He knows a lot of things, I guess," Nishikori added.

Mayer came back down to earth from his victory over Nadal as the rangy Lopez took him apart in one hour and eight minutes to reach the semi-finals in Shanghai for a second time having also got to the last four in 2009.

The relentlessly consistent Ferrer came from a set behind against 10th seed Roddick, clinching a 50th victory of an impressive season in a deciding set tiebreak.

"I thought the second and third sets he played at an extremely high level and served pretty well," Roddick, who still has an outside chance of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London next month, said.

"You know, you normally don't count on him making a lot of first serves, hitting aces. I felt like today he did that and got himself out of trouble a couple of times."

World number five Ferrer secured the fifth spot in the season-ending tournament in London on Thursday.

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