Brisbane - Australia's Bernard Tomic said his big improvement as a tennis player was on display during his three-set quarter-final win over Kei Nishikori at the Brisbane International on Friday.
Tomic delighted his home fans when he ousted the second-seeded Nishikori from Japan 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 in a shade under two hours, putting him into a semi-final showdown against huge-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Tomic, who hails from the nearby Gold Coast, powered through the first set before Nishikori fought back to take the second.
But after both players struggled to hold serve at the start of the third, Tomic took control and eased away to claim the match.
The win came almost 12 months to the day after Nishikori thumped Tomic 6-0, 6-4 at the same stage of last year's Brisbane tournament, and almost certainly assures Tomic a top 16 seeding for the Australian Open.
"I had the opportunity to play him last year and it was a different level for me today," said Tomic.
"I've improved so much."
Tomic said his improved serve had allowed him to control large parts of the match.
"Since last year, this time I must be serving at least 15 percent better," he said.
"That's very important for me, because being a tall guy, if you can get more free points, it's less for me to do and I can go for my shots off the return."
Tomic said he was also pleased by how his movement around the court had improved.
"I'm getting closer to being on every ball," he said.
"I think the top players in the world are always on every ball, and their timing and balance for every ball, even when they're running, is incredible."
Nishikori conceded Tomic was simply too good.
"Obviously I didn't play my best tennis today, but I think he played good tennis, too," the 26-year-old said.
"He served really well. He saved many important points with his serve. He was running from side to side and he got me so many balls back, so it was really tough to play."
Fourth seed Raonic earlier downed Frenchman Lucas Pouille in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
The Canadian said he wasn't worried about playing Tomic in front of a packed house at Pat Rafter Arena.
"I think you sort of just focus on what you can control and what's ahead of you," he said.
"I've played Lleyton (Hewitt) in a night match in Melbourne, so I've had the sense of what that's like.
fans here are very passionate. I've got to focus on what I need to do
to find a way to win and simplify it as much as possible."