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Nishikori Stuns Tsonga To Make History; Murray Up Next

Melbourne, Australia

Murray© Getty ImagesMurray advanced to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the third straight year.

No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori made history in Melbourne Monday, becoming the first Japanese man in the Open Era to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals after ousting sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Battling it out in hot conditions, the fourth-round encounter was a rollercoaster featuring 10 breaks of serve. After losing the third and fourth sets, Nishikori grabbed the momentum in the fifth set, breaking Tsonga for the sixth time to take a 3-1 lead. Tsonga had an opportunity to get the set back on serve when trailing 4-2, but Nishikori wiped away two break points to deny the Frenchman. He went on to close out the upset in three and a half hours to defeat Tsonga for the second time in two meetings.

"This is first quarter-final for me," said Nishikori. "My best result was 2008 US Open round of 16. That was a couple of years ago. And I played well end of last year, and now it's like this. So I feel I'm stepping up.

"It was tough [to close it out] because he was still playing well in the fifth. I was having trouble with making returns. I started getting nervous. I was tired, too. It was tough to finish. But still I was playing aggressive on important points. I was making good serves. So that helped me to get the games."

Watch Highlights | Watch Nishikori Interview

By virtue of his victory, Nishikori will break into the Top 20 following the conclusion of the tournament. The 22 year old will look to extend his best Grand Slam event run when he squares off against two-time defending finalist Andy Murray.

Looking ahead to the clash with Murray, Nishikori said, "Weplayed last year, end of last year. He kind of destroyed me. But I have no pressure now. He's one of the players I have to play like him. I learn a lot of things from him. It's going to be tough, but I try to do my best tennis."

Watch: Nishikori - My Toughest Opponents  

Read: "Counting On Kei" in DEUCE

World No. 4 Murray defeated Mikhail Kukushkin to advance. Murray led 6-1, 6-1, 1-0 before the Kazak retired with a left hip flexor injury.

Murray took control of the match with his return game, winning 27 of 33 first return points. He converted seven breaks of serve to advance in 49 minutes following Kukushkin’s retirement from the match early in the third set. "I think each match, [I've] got better," said Murray.

"Today's match, I don't really know. Didn't do much. But I thought each round I played a little bit better. I didn't feel good at all in my first match. I managed to get through, and then started serving better, started moving better. That's good. I'll definitely be fresh for the next few rounds hopefully. Just need to make sure I do the right things the next couple days to get ready for the quarters."

The Scot is into the final eight at Melbourne Park for the third straight year, having finished runner-up in 2011 (l. to Djokovic) and 2010 (l. to Federer). Kukushkin was appearing in the round of 16 at a major for the first time.

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© David G. McIntyre

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