© Alex Smith/Memphis Open

Mikhail Kukushkin won five of his 10 break points against Denis Kudla.

Kukushkin Takes Down Fifth Seed

Kukushkin sees off No. 5 seed Kudla to reach quarter-finals

Mikhail Kukushkin is yet to drop a set in Memphis after defeating fifth-seeded American Denis Kudla 6-1, 7-5. The Kazakh went five-for-10 on break point opportunities in the 81-minute match.

“I started well, but from the middle of the second set, he started playing much better,” Kukushkin said. “There were lots of tough points for me. I needed to fight for every game. Maybe I was a little bit lucky to win, but I am happy to be through to the quarter-finals.

“I was hitting well and not making too many unforced errors. It helped me that [Kudla] started slowly. From the middle of the second set he started to play much better … a lot of long rallies, tough points for me.

“I had to fight a lot to win every game. Maybe the score looks very easy, especially the first set, but then second set was really tough.”

 The win sets up a potential showdown with three-time defending champion and top seed Kei Nishikori who was due to face Ryan Harrison in the night session. The Japanese world No. 7 holds a perfect 5-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Kukushkin.

“If I have to play him, for sure it’ll be a tough match,” Kukushkin said. “He’s a Top 10 player. I’ve played him a few times and lost all of them ... I will just try to control everything I have and just enjoy the game.”

Nishikori’s countryman, qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, earlier cruised into the quarter-finals after dismissing Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko 6-1, 6-3. The Japanese left-hander has played himself into peak form having won through qualifying.

“I’ve been playing a lot of qualifying matches, and my confidence is good right now,” Nishioka said. “Every time I play, I think I can get to the main draw.”

The Mie native is into his second ATP World Tour quarter-final (2015 Delray Beach) and is not at all intimidated by the prospect of facing the tournament’s top seed in the semi-finals.

“I’m very excited to be in my second ATP quarter-final,” Nishioka said. “And if I win one more match, maybe I will get to play against Kei [Nishikori].”

First, Nishioka will have to find a way past No. 4 seed Sam Querrey, who had a routine 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Swiss qualifier Henri LaaksonenThe American World No. 58 hit seven aces and won 83 per cent of first-serve points in the 52-minute encounter.