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Nishikori, Raonic, Simon into Japan semis

TOKYO (AP) — Kei Nishikori moved closer to a second Japan Open home title by defeating unseeded Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The seventh-ranked Nishikori won 80 percent of his first serves and relied on his powerful forehand at key points.

The third-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada and Gilles Simon of France also won in straight sets to set up their semifinal on Saturday in Ariake Colosseum.

Nishikori, champion in 2012, awaited either Benjamin Becker of Germany or Jack Sock of the United States, who met in the late match.

Chardy, ranked 34th, beat Nishikori in two of their three previous matches, but both were on clay.

“It was a tough match today with the windy conditions,” Nishikori said. “This was my first match with the roof open, so it took me some time to adjust.”

In the second set, Nishikori took an injury timeout to have his lower back worked on by a trainer. He got up and held serve for 5-1, then closed it out on his next service game. He believes his fitness will hold up. In his previous two events, he reached the U.S. Open final, and won his third ATP title of the year at Kuala Lumpur.

“I’m a little tired, but I should be OK for the rest of the week,” he commented.

Raonic beat unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 7-6 (8), 6-3, and put on an amazing show by winning 97 percent (38 of 39) of the first serves he got in.

The first set was on serve until the tiebreak, where Raonic outlasted Istomin in a tight battle.

So strong was their serving that there was not even a break point until the 21st game.

Raonic finally broke the service break drought in the second set to go up 5-3 and then claimed the match on serve when Istomin netted a forehand.

“I struggled finding myself at the beginning, then started to impose my will as the match went on,” Raonic said.

Simon downed Steve Johnson of the U.S. 7-6 (4), 6-1 to advance.

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