BEIJING - Novak Djokovic 's China Open charge showed no sign of slowing as he destroyed towering American number one John Isner 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals in a lightning 52 minutes on Friday. The top-ranked Serb brushed off the 6ft 10ins (2.08m) Isner to clock up his 27th straight victory at a tournament where he has never been beaten and has now won 23 sets in a row.
The lop-sided defeat was almost embarrassing for the 13th-ranked Isner , clocking in a shade quicker than Djokovic 's similar straight-sets humiliation of China's 219th-ranked Zhang Ze in the previous round. Djokovic finished off Isner with a service winner on his first match point to move past Jimmy Connors and into sole second place for best unbeaten starts at a tournament, behind Nadal's 31 at the French Open.
Next up for the seemingly unstoppable Serb, who won three out of four Grand Slam finals this year to reach 10 major titles, is Spain's David Ferrer, who beat Taiwanese wildcard Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-1. Earlier, life was a little trickier for Rafael Nadal as he was forced to come from a set down against America's Jack Sock before setting up a chance for revenge in the semi-finals against Fabio Fognini.
The out-of-sorts Spanish great, scrapping to recover his form after a tough year, was outgunned by Sock's howitzer forehand but he dug deep to see off the world number 30, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. "Yes, it was an important victory for me. Obviously I finished the match playing better than what I started. It's important because I came back," Nadal said. "This year I lost a lot of matches when I had an advantage. So to have the chance to win a match when I start losing this one, so it's important for me, too." Nadal, into his first hardcourt semi-final for more than a year, will now face Fognini, who has beaten him three times this season including in last month's US Open third round. "He's a great player. When you play against a great player, especially if you don't play to your best, your chances are lower," Nadal said of the Italian, who beat Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.
"If I am able to play my best tomorrow... I am going to have my chances. If not, it's going to be tough. It's simple. Sport is simple." In the women's draw, Ana Ivanovic beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 7-5 to set up a semi-final with Timea Bacsinszky, who recovered from a first-set 'bagel' to beat Sara Errani 0-6, 6-3, 7-5. Agnieszka Radwanska beat Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-4 to go into a semi-final clash with the in-form Garbine Muguruza, who halted the run of American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 7-5.
'Zoo lion' Nishikori mauls Cilic in Tokyo
Defending champion Kei Nishikori survived a war of attrition against Croatia's Marin Cilic to reach the Japan Open semi-finals on Friday, winning a cliffhanger 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Top seed Stan Wawrinka overpowered American qualifier Austin Krajicek 6-3, 6-4 to join him in the last four, though the Swiss required less than an hour to take care of business on a sunny afternoon in Tokyo.
Second seed Nishikori was greeted like a rock star by 12,000 screaming fans but Cilic, who beat Japan's golden boy in last year's US Open final, had failed to read the script and quickly seized the initiative with some thunderous hitting.
Serving with such ferocity he knocked the racquet out of Nishikori's hand, the sixth seed broke first with a thumping forehand drive to lead 4-2 before wrapping up the opening set with an ace down the centre. Nishikori is a tough nut to crack on the Tokyo hardcourts, however, having captured the Japan Open twice in the last three years.
And when cracks began to appear in Cilic's armour, he levelled with an acrobatic leaping backhand that the lanky Croat could only dump into the net. Cilic's game unravelled under the onslaught in the decider as Nishikori caught fire, breaking for 3-1 and closing out the quarter-final with an ace after two hours, 11 minutes to ensure 'Nishikori Fever' stretches into the weekend.
"When I drove past all the fans on the buggy after practice this morning, I thought: 'This is what it must feel like to be a lion in a zoo'," joked Nishikori, who is regularly mobbed on his return to Japan. "The wind made it difficult today but I hung in and waited for my chances," added the Japanese superstar. "I had a couple of dangerous moments out there but that happens."
Nishikori, bidding to win a fourth title of the year, next faces Benoit Paire -- the man who stunned him in the first round of this year's US Open -- after the Frenchman beat volatile Australian Nick Kyrgios 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. World number four Wawrinka's path to the final was made easier when third seed Gilles Simon of France crashed out 6-3, 6-4 to Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.
Wawrinka made no mistakes as he powered past Krajicek in just 58 minutes , and the left-hander had no answer to the rapier-like ground strokes of the French Open champion. Wawrinka's one-handed backhand -- one of the most venomous shots in men's tennis -- did much of the damage and he closed out the match with a kicking serve which a deflated Krajicek swatted wide and long.
"I felt a bit more relaxed today and confident with my game," said Wawrinka, who is chasing a fourth title of the year and the 11th of his career. "A one-hour match, it was the perfect day for me today."