World no. 2 and the 11-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal is through to his 12th semi-final in Paris, dispatching Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 51 minutes for the 30th win in 2019. Kei had to play five sets over two days against Benoit Paire and had nothing left in the tank today, struggling with an arm injury and failing to match Nadal's pace in the 11th loss in 13 matches against the Spaniard.
Rafa is through to his 31st Grand Slam semi-final, becoming the fourth Open era player to achieve that after Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Jimmy Connors, the 12th here in Paris as he never lost after the quarter-final stage at his beloved event.
This was the 91st win for Rafa at Roland Garros in 93 matches, hitting 29 winners and 22 unforced errors to topple Nishikori's 17-30 ratio and seal the deal in straight sets. Rafa lost serve only once and converted seven out of 11 chances, having the upper hand all the time and staying on the title course after losing one set in the first five matches.
The favorite established dominance already in the opening set, dropping six points behind the initial shot and never facing a break point. On the other hand, Kei struggled to find the rhythm behind the serve, losing 55% of those points and losing serve twice to push Rafa 6-1 up.
The Spaniard broke in the second game when Nishikori sprayed a forehand error, wasting another break point in game four and breaking Kei for the second time after forcing an error in game six that sent him 5-1 up. Serving for the set, Rafa held with a backhand down the line winner for a 6-1 in 34 minutes, looking good to deliver a similar outcome in the other two sets as well.
Rafa served at 85% in set number two and this time Kei found the way to grab one break, gaining nothing from that as he suffered four breaks of serve, allowing Nadal to take 68% of the return points to leave the rival far behind.
The Spaniard forged a 4-1 lead and sealed the set with another break in game seven when the Japanese sent a backhand long after just 66 minutes. Nishikori finally managed to do some damage on the return in the opening game of the third set, creating three break points and wasting them all, struggling with a pain in the right hand more and more and getting broken in game four after a deep return from Rafa that he failed to control.
A service winner pushed Nadal 4-1 up and they had to stop the action after the sixth game due to bad weather, sending the players off the court and covering it for the next hour and a half or so. Once they returned, Nadal held in game nine to bring the match home and march into the semi-final where he will face Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka.