22-year-old Karen Khachanov has scored his 20th win of the season after a commanding 6-2 6-2 win over the 7th seed Kei Nishikori in an hour and 17 minutes. This is the first quarter-final for the Russian since February and the fourth of the season, also the first at ATP 500 series since Hamburg last year. 12 months ago Kei was forced to retire against Karen here in Halle and he played well below his level today as well, losing almost 50% of the points in his games and facing 11 break chances.
Karen converted four of those and it was more than enough to guide him home safely, serving well and fending off the only break point he faced to keep his serve intact. Khachanov had 22 winners and 25 unforced errors and Kei stayed on a negative 14-32 ratio, never finding his rhythm and making too many mistakes.
It was the best possible start for the youngster, converting his third break point in the opening game of the match after a deep return and making an easy hold in game two for a 2-0 lead. Nishikori fought off two break points in game three to avoid an even bigger deficit but Karen found the way to break him for the second time at 4-2 when the Japanese sent a forehand long, serving for the set in the following game.
Khachanov closed the set with three winners in game eight, looking for more of the same in the rest of the match. Just like in the opening set, Karen forged an instant lead with a break in the opening game of set number two, with another break point up for grabs in game three.
Kei saved it with a solid forehand attack and he finally created a break point in game six, having a chance to level the score at 3-3. Karen saved it with a service winner and he broke for the second time in game seven after a double fault from Nishikori, moving 5-2 ahead and serving for the win in the next game.
He delivered a hold at 15 for the comfortable win and a place in the last eight where he would face Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday. Playing in Halle for the fourth time, world number 7 Dominic Thiem has failed to reach the quarter-final for the third time after a 7-6 6-3 loss to Yuichi Sugita in an hour and 28 minutes. Last year in Barcelona Thiem lost only three games against the Japanese but this match was nothing like that one, with Sugita who had the upper hand in the most of the encounter.
The Japanese served at 71% and he did everything right in service games, losing 15 points in 10 service games and saving a lone break point he faced to keep the pressure on the other side of the net. It was a shaky performance from the Roland Garros finalist, struggling on his second serve and facing no less than 13 break points, dropping serve on three occasions to hit the exit door.
Yuichi had 31 winners and 22 unforced errors while Dominic stood on a negative 22-33 ratio, unable to match rival's pace and playing another poor match outside his beloved clay. Thiem suffered a break in the very first game of the match following a backhand slice that could only find the net and Sugita converted the fifth break point in game three to grab a double break lead.
Dominic avoided a disaster in game five when he saved two break points to get his name on the scoreboard but that was all he could do, winning just three points on the return and finding himself 6-2 down after three service winners from Sugita in game eight.
The Austrian raised his level a little bit to stay in touch with Sugita until 5-5 in the second set but he got broken in game 11 when his forehand landed long, letting Sugita serve for the triumph in the following game. Yuichi needed no second invitation to book his place in the quarters, his second of the season after Dubai, finishing the match thanks to a lucky net cord for a much-needed win as he came to Halle with just five ATP triumphs in 2018. Second round results: