Read & Watch: Nishikori Dashes Thiem's Home Hopes In Vienna
Nitto ATP Finals contender Anderson also advances to semi-finals
Kei Nishikori stepped up his bid to qualify for a Nitto ATP Finals spot on Friday by dashing the hopes of fellow London contender Dominic Thiem, who had been attempting to become the third Austrian in the 45-year history of the Erste Bank Open 500 to lift the trophy.
Fifth seed Nishikori completed one of his best performance of the year, blasting past top seed Thiem 6-3, 6-1 in 69 minutes for a place in the Vienna semi-finals. Nishikori committed 10 unforced errors for his 39th match win of the season (39-17) and a meeting with Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin.
The Japanese star moves past 10th-placed American John Isner and into ninth position in the ATP Race To London, one behind Thiem. Nishikori qualified for the season finale in 2014-16 and will now be hoping to secure one of the three remaining singles berths at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
"I'm just happy to play good tennis," said Nishikori. "Hopefully I can make London, but there is still one more tournament next week in Paris, so I just play 100 per cent here in Vienna and hope I can carry on the momentum to Paris."
Kevin Anderson also moved up one spot in the ATP Race To London, overtaking Marin Cilic in the sixth position on Friday with his quarter-final victory over recent Shanghai finalist Borna Coric. The second-seeded Anderson led 7-6(2), 1-2 when No. 6 seed Coric retired from their match with a left foot injury.
After saving one match point in a tough first-round match against China Open champion Nikoloz Basilashvili on Monday, Anderson benefitted from a walkover in the second round against Austrian Jurgen Melzer.
"It’s definitely an interesting route to get through to the semis here," he said. "Obviously it’s good to get through to the quarters, but then I’m playing my first match on Monday and not playing again until Friday, up against a very tough opponent, a very in-form player. It took me some time to find my feet…The good thing is that I feel fresh. I’ve played a lot of tennis this year and I know that if I can stick to what I’ve been doing, I’m going to be good, even if I haven’t played as much."
Anderson, 32, is looking to become the fourth-oldest first-time singles qualifier at the Nitto ATP Finals, and he would clinch his spot by winning the Vienna title. He will take a 3-5 FedEx ATP Head2Head record into his semi-final match against Spain's Fernando Verdasco, in their first meeting since the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters. Verdasco also advanced by retirement, after establishing a 6-4, 2-1 lead against 2008 runner-up Gael Monfils.
Earlier in the day, Kukushkin became the first qualifier to reach the Vienna semi-finals since Viktor Troicki of Serbia in 2014. Kukushkin admitted on court, “I still can’t believe that I made it,” after a 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4) over Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics in three hours and 19 minutes. “That was a crazy match, so emotional. It’s my first time in Vienna. I’m so happy.” Kukushkin also reached the grass-court Nature Valley International semi-finals (l. to M. Zverev) in June.
Salisbury/Skupski Reach Doubles Final
British duo Joe Salisbury and Neal Skupski scraped past second seeds and Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in 76 minutes for a place in their first ATP World Tour team final. Meanwhile, top seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic reached the semi-finals with a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Maximo Gonzalez and Diego Schwartzman. They will face Mike Bryan and Edouard Roger-Vasselin for a place in the title match.