Chennai: Japan's highest ranked player on the pro tour, 21-year old Kei Nishikori continued his ascent with a stunning come-from-behind victory against Colombian Alejandro Falla to book a quarter-final berth in the Aircel ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament here on Thursday.
The 98th ranked Nishikori's 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win lined him up against Serbian Davis Cupper and sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic who earlier beat Russian qualifier Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2, 7-6 (3).
Also progressing to the round of eight was eighth seed Robin Haase of the Netherlands who shrugged off a poor start to beat qualifier Yuichi Sugita (Japan) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, while late last night, seventh seeded Belgian, Xavier Malisse, the 2007 champion, beat Frenchman Stephane Robert 6-2, 6-2.
In doubles action, the Indo-Pak pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Ul-Haq Quereshi, seeded second, went down to the Dutch-US combo of Robin Haase and David Martin 4-6, 5-7, in the quarter-finals.
Falla had the match all sewed up or so it seemed when he led 3-0 in the second set after winning the first, but Nishikori re-wrote the script by clinching the next nine games on the trot to tie the scores and go 3-0 up in the third to effectively seal the issue.
"I am always a slow starter, but I need to change that if I hope to make progress," said Nishikori who last month hired noted coach Brad Gilbert, a long time associate of Andre Agassi.
Falla contributed to his own downfall. He smashed his racquet in frustration after dropping a serve in the first game of the third set that was marred by a wrong call from chair umpire El Jennati who unwittingly awarded a point to the Japanese.
Jennati called out 15-all instead of 30-love on Falla's serve. Nishikori sought clarification and the umpire said it was 15-all. Falla spotted the error only when the scores tied at deuce, but Jennati stated he couldn't correct the scores.
"The dispute was a distraction and I lost concentration. It was tough for me, but I got lucky and managed to win," said Nishikori who last year made 800 spots from 898 to 98 in just eight months.
Nishikori, who had put out second seed and defending champion Marin Cilic in the first round, scurried about the court like an eager pup chasing a bone on string and out-rallied the 27-year old Falla, ranked 105, who became a victim of his own emotions after the third set dispute.
The match witnessed some heavy hitting from the backcourt with neither player willing to get to the net although they tested each other with drop shots as if for some variation.
Nishikori, looking the fitter of the two, drew his senior opponent into long rallies that eventually wore down the Colombian.
Earlier, two breaks of serve in the fourth and eighth games gave the 26-year old Belgrade-based Tipsarevic the first set, but in the second, the games went with serves leading to the tie-break that the Serb took after jumping to an early lead.