Mon, Sep 08, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Nishikori and Cilic set up shock final

GIANT KILLERS:Kei Nishikori beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic to become the first Asian man to advance to a Grand Slam final, while Marin Cilic upset Roger Federer


Kei Nishikori of Japan celebrates after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their semi-final match at the US Open in New York City on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic set-up a shock US Open final on Saturday as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, with 24 Grand Slams between them, were dumped out on one of the sport’s most sensational afternoons.

Japan’s Nishikori, the 10th seed, became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final when he swept past seven-time major winner and world No. 1 Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, despite on-court temperatures of almost 40oC.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to reach the semi-finals in New York, was set to face Croatian 14th seed Cilic in yesterday’s championship match after he also reached a maiden Grand Slam final by beating five-time New York winner Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

It will be the first major final that has not featured one of the big three of Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal since the Australian Open final in 2005, when Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt.

The 27-year-old Djokovic was the 2011 champion in New York. He was playing in his eighth successive US Open semi-final and bidding for a sixth final, his 15th overall at the majors.

In contrast, 24-year-old Nishikori’s best effort had been a run to the quarter-finals of the 2012 Australian Open.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” a breathless Nishikori said. “I was a little bit tight, especially as it was my first semi-final in a Grand Slam, but it’s just an amazing feeling to beat the No. 1 player. It was tough conditions, it was a little heavy and humid, but I guess I love to play long matches.”

Djokovic, playing in his 17th semi-final of the last 18 Grand Slam events, admitted Nishikori was the better player.

“He played some great tennis. I congratulate him for the effort. He was the better player today,” the Serb said. “I think he wasn’t using forehand as well as he does now. His backhand is very solid. One of the best double-handed backhands from all over the court. Really aggressive. He’s very quick, so he gets a lot of balls back. Uses every short ball to attack. I think now he’s all-around player.”

Despite playing back-to-back five-setters over eight-and-a-half hours to get to the semi-final, Nishikori wrapped up the first set in 39 minutes.

However, Djokovic shrugged off his lethargy, breaking in the fourth and sixth games on his way to levelling the semi-final with a sixth ace securing the second set.

Nishikori, threatening to wilt in the heat, had to save four break points in an 11-minute third game of the third set, which went to seven deuces.

He then conjured up a break for 5-3, but cracked when trying to serve out the set, his second double fault handing the break straight back to the Serb.

Nishikori went 4/0 and 5/2 in the tiebreak and claimed the set when Djokovic went limply wide with a weary forehand.

Nishikori then turned the screw, breaking for 1-0 in the fourth set and fending off three break points in the next for 2-0.

And that was almost that.

Down and nearly out, Djokovic was broken again in the ninth game when he sent a forehand long, a shot which rocketed Nishikori into the record books.

Cilic, who missed last year’s US Open as he sat out a doping ban, overwhelmed 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer with 13 aces and 43 winners.

The second seeded Swiss, the champion between 2005 and 2008, was bidding to become the oldest winner of a Grand Slam title in more than 40 years and vying to reach a seventh final in New York.

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