Miami (AFP) – Novak Djokovic eliminated defending champ Andy Murray in straight sets and fifth seed Roger Federer was sent crashing out of the ATP Tour’s Miami Masters tournament in the quarter-finals.
Federer lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Japanese 20th seed Kei Nishikori who booked a semi-final showdown with former world number one Djokovic, who defeated Murray 7-5, 6-3 on the hardcourts at Crandon Park.
“Kei did well to stay with me and not allow me to hold my serve,” Federer said on Wednesday. “He was more consistent in the second and third set and those are the ones he won. At the end it’s his credit.”
Nishikori reached his second Masters semi and first in two and a half years by winning the two hour, nine minute night match.
“I thought I really played well, especially in the third,” Nishikori said. “I was hitting both deep and striking well. Everything was going well.”
“There was couple of tough moments, but I was fighting through and happy to win today.”
Nishikori next faces Djokovic, who is going for back-to-back Masters titles after his triumph at Indian Wells.
They split their only two previous matches with Djokovic winning 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 at Roland Garros in 2010. They also played on the hardcourts three years ago in Switzerland where Nishikori won in three sets, 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0.
Nishikori blasted six aces and won 64 percent of his first serve points against Federer. He has now won two of three career meetings against Federer. He also won their last encounter on clay in Madrid in 2013, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.
Nishikori was broken twice in the second set but managed to break right back. He tried to take advantage of Federer’s poor serving on Wednesday.
“He wasn’t making a lot of first serves today,” Nishikori said. “Maybe because of the wind.”
“I was trying to step in his second serve, and my return was going well. That was the key for the game today.”
Federer, the recent Dubai champion, has previously won in Miami in 2005 and 2006. He had three double faults and seven aces against Nishikori.
The 26-year-old Serbian Djokovic recovered from an early break in the second set to notch the victory in one hour and 29 minutes.
It was the first meeting between the two since Murray defeated Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.
“I tried to move him around, change the pace of the ball, mix it up with the slice, with different depth, angles and just stay tough out there,” Djokovic said.
The second seeded Djokovic also won this title in 2011 and 2007. He was runner-up in 2009.
Djokovic hammered seven aces and broke Murray three times and is now 12-8 lifetime against Murray, including a 3-1 record in Miami.
Djokovic settled into the match quickly, and when he did lose his concentration, he used his strong serve to rescue the points.
In the second set, Murray broke Djokovic in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. In the next game he double faulted twice and Djokovic went on to win four straight games to wrap up his ninth consecutive win.
Murray, who underwent back surgery on September 23, struggled for consistency sometimes on his backhand in the windy conditions. Other times, he moved well enough to keep Djokovic on his back foot.
“I had many opportunities today like 30-all games and love/30s on his serve, and I didn’t serve so well when I went ahead in the second set,” said Murray.
“I would have liked to have done that better, but I was hitting the ball better from the back of the court. I was playing aggressive. I was taking the ball early. I was trying to come forward a bit. My game is not far from where I want it to be.”