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Nishikori Edges Raonic, Sets Lopez Clash

Madrid, Spain

Nishikori© Getty ImagesKei Nishikori held his nerve in two tie-breaks against Milos Raonic.

Tenth seed Kei Nishikori came up with clutch tennis in two tie-breaks to beat eighth seed Milos Raonic 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in the third round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday. The Japanese star rallied from 2-5 down in the first set and won five points more than Raonic to claim victory in just over two hours.

"It was really tough because against Raonic you don't get many rallies and you don't get rhythm,” said Nishikori. “He was very aggressive and playing well. It was a really close game. But I'm happy to win and be into the quarter-finals of a Masters [1000]. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm playing well and feeling very confident.”

The 24-year-old Nishikori is riding an eight-match winning streak, having come into Madrid on the back of winning his first ATP World Tour clay-court title in Barcelona 11 days ago (d. Giraldo). The right-hander is on the cusp of becoming the first Japanese player to break into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, and told on the eve of the tournament that he intends to stay for the long-term. Read More.

Nishikori goes on to face Feliciano Lopez, who was given a walkover into the quarter-finals when rising star Dominic Thiem was forced to withdraw due to illness. Thiem had stunned recent Monte-Carlo champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round. 

"I am extremely sorry I was not able to play today," the 20 year old posted on Facebook. "I would have loved to play against Feliciano Lopez today, I was so much looking forward to that match and show you a good fight."

Toledo-native Lopez is bidding to reach the semi-finals of his hometown tournament for the first time after falling at the quarter-final stage three times. He has a 2-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Nishikori, winning their one previous clay-court contest three years ago in Barcelona.

"He's a complicated player," said Lopez. "He's very fast. He returns the ball very well. He comes from a moment where he has a lot of confidence. He has won Barcelona, which is a really good test on clay. Only great players can win there on clay."

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