Nishikori reaches new milestone at French Open
PARIS (AP) Kei Nishikori reached another milestone on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese man in more than 80 years to advance to the quarterfinals at the French Open.
The fifth-seeded Nishikori, who has yet to drop a set at this year's tournament, progressed to the last eight at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory of Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Sunday.
''To (reach) the quarterfinals, that's the first goal for these two weeks,'' said Nishikori, who disappointed with a first-round exit at the French last year but rebounded by making the U.S. Open final. ''I knew I could do this because I was doing well during the clay-court season. I hope it's just the start of my journey, and I hope I can keep going.''
At the U.S. Open, Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final. He's also the only Japanese man to be ranked in the top 10 of the ATP world rankings.
Now he's following in the footsteps of Jiro Satoh, who got to the semifinals of the French Open in 1931 and 1933.
''It's always a lot to make the new history,'' said Nishikori, who will play in his fourth Grand Slam quarterfinal. "Especially for Japanese, Asian, you know, the clay is not the best surface for us. Now, I'm trying to make a new step. I hope I can keep going like this on clay court.''
After defending his Barcelona title and reaching the semifinals in Madrid during the buildup to the French Open, the fast-moving Nishikori has been impressive in Paris so far. He also benefited from extra rest this week after his third-round opponent withdrew with an injury.
The 25-year-old Nishikori was full of energy against Gabashvili, breaking him five times and hitting 40 winners.
Next up for the last of five Japanese men who started the French Open will be No. 14 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who upset fourth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3. Nishikori has a 4-1 record against the Frenchman.
''He was injured and now and he's coming back very strong,'' Nishikori said. ''He has a big serve, big forehand. He's always a dangerous player. He's the top-10 player, I think. So it's going to be a fun match.''