In just 55 minutes, Richard Gasquet, the world no. 13 crushed Nishikori 6-1, 6-2.
"He played really well and there wasn't much I could do," Nishikori told the near-capacity crowd of 9,123 at Tokyo's Ariake Colosseum.The unseeded Nishikori was hard-pressed to live up to the exorbitant expectations placed on him in the wake of a breakout year that included becoming the first Japanese to win an ATP event in 16 years.
"I knew he was strong. I respected him too much."
Already Japan's top male player in over a decade, the 18-year-old never displayed the poise or confidence that carried him to victories in the first two rounds, his first-ever wins in an ATP tournament on home soil.
Gasquet, 22, took advantage of a shaky Nishikori. On one serve, Nishikori did the unimaginable by dropping his racquet (click on picture to see larger version).
"It's hard to play at home, he's only 18 years old," said a sympathetic Gasquet, like Nishikori a former junior star.Gasquet said he sees a bright future for Nishikori, who will likely land in the upper 70s when the rankings are released next week, exceeding his career-best of 81.
"I'm sure he was a little bit nervous. I have three years more experience than him."
"It's his first year on the tour, so it's tough," Gasquet said.In the quarterfinals, Gasquet, the losing finalist here last year to Spain's David Ferrer, will face 2003 champion Rainer Schuettler, the 12th-seeded German who squeezed past No. 8 seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-3, 6-7 (12-14), 6-4.
"He won a tournament and made the fourth round of the U.S. Open. If he is not injured, he will be in the top 10. He has a good forehand, a good backhand. There is no reason for him not to go into the top 10."
(Via AP, Images via sanspo.com, Yahoo! Sport)