MELBOURNE- David Ferrer wore down Japan’s Kei Nishikori over three physical sets to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for a third straight year on Sunday.
The Spanish fourth seed was far too consistent and disciplined for the 16th-seeded Nishikori, winning 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in 2hr 10min in rising temperatures on Rod Laver Arena.
The indefatigible Ferrer will line up against either fellow countryman and 10th seed Nicolas Almagro or Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic in the last eight on Tuesday.
Although Nishikori had beaten Ferrer in their only previous Grand Slam encounter at the 2008 US Open, this time it was clear-cut for the Spaniard.
Nishikori’s exit ended Asia’s hopes in the men’s singles draw as he was bidding to repeat last year’s quarter-final appearance in Melbourne.
“I started very well and when I won the first games he got down a little bit and I took my chance,” Ferrer said.
“I didn’t make any mistakes for the first two sets and to reach the quarter-final here again I am very satisfied.”
Nishikori began brightly and had five break points in Ferrer’s opening two service games.
But the consistent Spaniard gradually ground down the more error-prone Nishikori, breaking him in the fourth and eighth games to take the opening set in 46 minutes.
Nishikori’s form tailed off against the controlled Ferrer and he had a double service break to hand the second set to the world number four.
Nishikori was having problems with his troublesome left knee, which forced him out of this month’s Brisbane International, and he called for the trainer to restrap it and took a painkiller tablet.
The Japanese number one had two break points at 1-5 down but Ferrer denied him a service break to hold serve and take a two sets to love lead.
Both players traded breaks at the start of the final set, but Ferrer broke Nishikori a second time to take up the running before the Japanese star broke a second time to level at 3-3.
But Ferrer, parked on the baseline, proved relentless and he broke Nishikori again, for 5-4, on his second break point when a backhand was wide.
The tireless Spaniard served out for the match, clinching victory on his first of three match points.