BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Defending champion Kei Nishikori made his way into the Barcelona Open semifinals by holding off Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 on Friday.
Third-seeded David Ferrer also advanced by beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (5) as he stayed on course for a fifth final appearance at the tournament.
After the top-seeded Nishikori won the first set easily, Bautista Agut rebounded in the second and got his first break. The seventh-seeded Spaniard saved three break points in his final service game before using two big serves to force the third set.
Nishikori re-established his ground game to take a 3-1 lead before winning the last three games on the Real Club de Tenis’ outdoor clay court.
“It was a difficult match,” Nishikori said. “He started really well in the second set, and I was less focused, but I’m happy to win in three sets and fight really strong at the end.”
Nishikori will next face Martin Klizan after the Slovak eliminated Tommy Robredo 7-6 (5), 6-4 despite needing massage on his right forearm twice.
Klizan beat Nishikori in their only previous meeting, a straight-set victory in the first round of last year’s French Open.
Ferrer and Kohlschreiber traded breaks three times in the second set to force the tiebreaker, where the fifth-ranked Spaniard prevailed for his ninth straight win over Kohlschreiber.
Ferrer lost all four finals he played here to eight-time winner Rafael Nadal.
“Winning the (Barcelona Open) is one of my goals,” Ferrer said. “It’s not my top priority, but it is one of the tournaments that I most want to win. If I haven’t won it before it’s because I haven’t deserved to. I lost a semifinal to (Fernando) Verdasco and Nadal wasn’t here that year” in 2010.
Ferrer will meet Pablo Andujar after his countryman converted five of seven break chances to brush aside Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-3.
Fognini was unable to build on his surprising two-set win over Nadal on Thursday.
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