Top seed Taylor Fritz produced high-quality first-strike tennis Friday to down former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori and reach his seventh tour-level semi-final of the season at the Atlanta Open.
The 25-year-old defeated the Japanese star 6-4, 6-2 after dropping just four points behind his first delivery (25/29). Fritz looked to step around any ball left in the middle of the court before crushing a forehand winner, closing the match in one hour, 13 minutes.
"I'm super happy how I played today, getting better and better each day I feel like," Fritz said in his on-court interview. "A lot of positives I can take into the next match. Kei has been around since I first started. He's an incredible player and a great guy. I'm just happy to see him back playing again, having good results and hitting the ball well after being injured for so long."
Through the first five games, neither player dropped a point behind their serve. Fritz later took advantage of his lone break point, which doubled as a set point in the 10th game of the opening set. As the match wore on, Nishikori did not seem at his physical best, using a medical timeout before the second set started for a problem with his left knee.
It was Fritz’s maiden Lexus ATPHead2Head win against Nishikori, who had won the previous three meetings. Friday was their first encounter since 2019.
Aiming for his second tour-level trophy of the season, World No. 9 Fritz will next meet countryman J.J. Wolf. The eighth seed Wolf, who has not dropped a set all week, cruised past Dominik Koepfer 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals to set a maiden meeting against the American No. 1.
The 33-year-old Nishikori was playing in his first ATP Tour tournament since October 2021. A 12-time tour-level titlist, Nishikori underwent arthroscopic left hip surgery in 2022 and returned to competition last month on the ATP Challenger Tour, immediately winning a title in Puerto Rico.
In the evening session, which was delayed by more than two hours due to rain, Australia's Aleksandar Vukic knocked off Atlanta native Christopher Eubanks to advance to his first ATP Tour semi-final. Playing in his first tour-level quarter-final of the season, the 27-year-old earned a 6-4, 6-4 victory by handling the American's power and capitalising on unforced errors by the home favourite.
Eubanks made a late charge from two breaks down at 1-4 in the second set, but could not convert on a break point at 3-4.
Vukic served out the match to love to improve to 2-0 in the pair's Lexus ATP Head2Head, backing up a three-set win in Delray Beach earlier this season. The Aussie's run has set him up for a new career high; he has moved up nine places to No. 73 this week in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and could crack the Top 50 with his first tour-level title.
After upsetting the fifth seed, Vukic will face another seeded opponent in Saturday's semi-finals: seventh seed Ugo Humbert, who is through to his second ATP Tour semi-final in as many weeks after reaching that stage in Newport.
Humbert knocked off defending champion and second seed Alex de Minaur 7-6(4), 6-3, closing out the match after 1 a.m. by winning 13 straight points on serve. After falling behind 0/40 as he served to consolidate a break at 3-1, the Frenchman did not lose another point on his delivery. The opening set was trickier, with Humbert losing a set point on serve at 5-4 before winning the tie-break.
The Frenchman is seeking his fourth ATP Tour title and his first since Halle in 2021.