Battling Roger Federer continues on his unbeaten run
Roger Federer maintained his unbeaten status at the ATP World Tour Finals, ending Kei Nishikori's season with a 7-5 4-6 6-4 result to advance to the semi-finals with a perfect 3-0 record in his group.
The Swiss World No.3 converted all six of his break points against the tenacious Nishikori, who fought back from a set and 1-4 down to take the entertaining match to a decider.
The Japanese star also rallied when down 2-4 in the third, but a double fault on game point at 4-5 proved costly, Federer finishing off the match with his 33rd winner.
Novak Djokovic, who Federer defeated in straight sets on Tuesday, saw off Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 last night to join the 17-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal and either Britain's Andy Murray or Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals.
Djokovic has now won 21 of his previous 23 matches against Berdych. Enough said.
Federer, meanwhile, had booked his place in the last four with Tuesday's upset of the top seed, and now has a day to rest and prepare.
"I feel really good about my body," he said. "I've got the perfect schedule. I'm off before the semis, which is huge.
"Now you're looking at potentially a maximum of two more matches and the season's over then. It's easy for the mind now, in my opinion. There's no best-of-five-set matches to look forward to, so it should be pretty easy."
Nishikori was not. One of the fastest players in the game, the World No.8 is also a quality returner, who won 70 per cent of the points on Federer's second serve to break five times from 12 opportunities - unusual against arguably the game's best server indoors.
Nishikori said afterwards: "I was making a lot of returns. Second serve I think I was attacking really well.
"But I didn't start well in each set. I think he broke first in every one and I was kind of defending all the time.
"That was the big mistake that I made today. I mean, in the end, it was a really close game.
"However, I think there were just a couple of points that I didn't play quite well enough."
So Nishikori departs after a consistent season to concentrate on improving his results at the Grand Slams in particular, as well as his net game and first-serve percentage. But the Federer beard stays. For now.
Federer laughed: "If it itches too much, I'll take it off. If my girls can't stand it, I'll take it off.
"If I look in the mirror and I don't like it, I'll take it off. Maybe I'll think of Santa and keep it. It's around the corner. I don't know yet."
Does wife Mirka like it? "Yeah, she's fine with it. I mean, yeah, she's OK, I guess. I do take decisions by myself sometimes," he smiled.
"I don't know about your wife, but I'm allowed to."