It felt like a battle of walking wounded between Kei Nishikori and Ernests Gulbis on No.2 Court, and it was the former who withstood the pain and out-lasted his opponent in a tight fourth round contest.
Things were not looking good for Nishikori for the first set-and-a-half against Gulbis. The Japanese No.24 seed had lost the opening set, needed medical treatment multiple times for an elbow/upper arm problem, and had only managed to win a total of three points on the Gulbis serve through the first 18 games of the match.
Having had a troubled history with injuries at Wimbledon in the past, there was a concerned look on Nishikori’s face as he battled through every game, inching towards the second set tie-break.
Gulbis, a former top-10 player, came through Qualifying after his ranking dropped to No.138. His class was evident in the upset over No.4 seed Alexander Zverev in the third round. The Latvian served big and looked confident but momentum, and luck, did not stay on his side. He lost the second set, and had a nasty fall in the third set tie-break, badly hurting his knee.
Nishikori went on to claim a 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(10), 6-1 victory to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time in his career on his tenth appearance at the All England Club.
“It took little bit to get better,” said Nishikori of his injury. “My elbow was bothering me little bit. From the second, it got better. I kept trying. It wasn’t working well for me first set. He was playing very good, very good serves. I mean, first couple sets I couldn’t really do anything with his serve. So I was very struggling returning his serve.
“But I think getting the second set tiebreak gave me a lot of confidence. I tried to stay positive even though I was struggling with my return game, and he was playing good today. So I just tried to stay calm and fight every game.”
Gulbis said he had a ligament problem that looked likely to keep him out for two or three weeks, but added he did not feel it was the decisive factor in his defeat, that was his failure to win the second set tiebreak.
“I think I should win the second set,” he said. “I should have played more aggressive on my return games, which I didn’t, and Kei was going for his shots much more better than I did. I was serving better, but he was going for his shots better than I did. He’s a fighter. He proved it today, he found his way. I mean, I was unfortunate in the third set, yes, but in the second set he found a way to win it, so this was the key today.”
Nishikori entered the history books as the first Japanese man, and just the second Japanese player behind Kimiko Date, to complete the set of quarter-finals reached at each of the four Grand Slams.
Grass has been Nishikori’s weakest surface and his victories en route to the quarter-finals represent the first time he has recorded four consecutive Tour-level match wins on turf.
Source: Reem Abulleil|| Wimbledon