BY JIM PEDERSEN/BB&T ATLANTA OPEN
Described as the "All-Japanese Clash" eighth seed Go Soeda easily defeated third-seeded Kei Nishikora 6-2, 6-1 in the first ATP World Tour quarterfinal between two Japanese players in the Open Era.
The historic match also was the first meeting of Japan’s two top-seeded players.
Soeda playing for the first time in Atlanta crushed his countryman. He was able to capitalize on all four of his break point opportunities throughout the 1-hour, 12-minute match.
Nishikori and Soeda are ATP Tour opponents this week, and Olympic teammates next week in the London Games. Nishikori said it was hard to play Soeda because they were close friends.
"I was aggressive," Soeda explained. "In the second set I hit as hard as the first."
Soeda thought the importance of the all-Japanese quarterfinal contributed to an extra pressure in the match. "I think he felt more pressure than me. He is the higher seed. I had nothing to lose," he added.
In the post-match press conference Nishikori described his play as "lacking confidence" and admitted he was never in the match. Nishikori didn’t put much pressure on the Soeda serve until the last game when Soeda needed to four deuces to close out the match.
Nishikori, Atlanta's No. 3 seed, was successful on only 43 percent of his first serves. He says he is still returning to form after missing two months due to an oblique injury.
MULLER MOVES TO BEST ATLANTA RESULTS
Soeda will play Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, who eliminated Australian Matthew Ebden 6-4, 6-4.
Muller, an Olympian from Luxembourg, won 91 percent of his first serve points, 20 percent more than Ebden.
Muller was able to break early, converting breaks in the third game of the first set and the first game of the second. He converted three of five break points and didn’t face one on his serve.
Muller cited his experience in Atlanta as a reason for his success here. He lost to John Isner twice, in the round of 16 in 2010 and in the semifinals last year.