MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Kei Nishikori of Japan finally has a chance to successfully defend an ATP Tour title. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia will be playing for his sixth career title coming off an even shorter match.
Fourth-seeded Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan retired Saturday from his semifinal because of a neck injury after losing the opening set 6-1 to Karlovic, ending the chance at an all-Asian final at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships.
"It's going to be a tough opponent especially Ivo being indoors like this," Nishikori said of the chance to play Karlovic. "You don't get many returns easy. But we'll see."
Nishikori, who won his third career title here last year, needed only 64 minutes to beat American Michael Russell 6-3, 6-2 despite trailing 1-3 to the 35-year-old American at the start. Ranked 16th in the world, Nishikori improved to 10-2 this year.
"It's almost there," Nishikori said about defending a title. "Especially, like today I was playing good tennis and more confidence coming. It's going to be a tough opponent."
The No. 1 seed broke Russell's serve to tie the first set at 3-3, and Nishikori broke the American again and served out to take the first set in 34 minutes. Nishikori broke Russell again to start the second set and broke the American's serve to take a 5-2 lead before serving out for the match.
Russell upset former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt to reach only his third career ATP Tour semifinal. Unforced errors mixed with Nishikori's efficient serve kept Russell from what would have been his first final.
"He really played a high level," Russell said. "For me, I've played everybody. That was by far top-10, top-five level even after that middle of the first set. Everything that came off his racket was in the corner, an ace. It was very difficult. He was playing really well, and I wasn't able to get him out of that rhythm."