World No. 3 Alexander Zverev battled back from a set down—and hung tough through some tense moments late in the third set—to beat Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals of the Citi Open on Friday.
In a rematch of their semifinal clash at the ATP World Tour 500 event last year—which Zverev won in straight sets—it was Nishikori who came out stronger this time, holding his first five service games and sneaking out a love break in the sixth game of the match en route to winning the first set, 6-3.
Zverev took it to a whole new level from there, though, winning 11 of the next 14 games to take the second set, 6-1, and storm out to a 5-2 lead in the third set—despite a lengthy rain delay at 3-2, 30-all in the third. The No. 7-seeded Nishikori made things interesting at the end, winning two games to close in from 5-2 to 5-4, but the No. 1-seeded Zverev swiftly served the match out at love, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“It was great. It was a fantastic match. We both played at a very high level from the baseline,” Zverev said after the match. “Obviously Kei’s a great player - I’d played him a few times before, I even played him here last year - so we know each other’s games very well. At times I had to play my best tennis.”
He was asked about the rain delay as well. “You don’t think about it too much,” he said. “It kind of sucks having the rain delay in the middle of your service game but it’s okay, things happen, and we’re all used to it by now. I’m just happy to be through to the semifinals. He was a very tough opponent.”
Overall, Zverev played a much cleaner match, finishing with a minus-four differential of winners to unforced errors (18 to 22). Meanwhile, Nishikori had a minus-17 differential of winners to unforced errors (13 to 30).
Zverev, the defending champion, has now won eight matches in a row in the American capital and is through to his seventh ATP tour semifinal of the year (going 4-2 in the first six of those).
On Saturday the German will face No. 10 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who upset No. 3 seed David Goffin earlier in the day, 6-3, 6-4. It’ll be a first-time meeting, and while Tsitsipas has never beaten a Top 5 player, he does have three career Top 10 wins (No. 10 Goffin at Antwerp last year and two during the clay-court season this year—No. 7 Dominic Thiem at Barcelona and No. 8 Kevin Anderson at Estoril).