Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Keys to face Osaka; Nishikori advances

NATIONAL FIRST:With the Japanese players’ victories, Japan has men’s and women’s singles semi-finalists at the same Grand Slam for the first time in tennis history


Japan’s Kei Nishikori returns to Croatia’s Marin Cilic in their US Open men’s singles quarter-final in New York City on Wednesday.

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY

Madison Keys was one of four American women in the US Open semi-finals one year ago, when she was the runner-up.

She is the only member of that quartet who made it back to that round this year.

Still in search of her first Grand Slam title, 14th-seeded Keys on Wednesday night reached her third semi-final in the past five majors by using her big-strike game built on serves and forehands to overpower Spain’s No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-3.

Keys, 23, thinks she is more equipped than ever to deal with important moments on important stages.

“I’ve gotten a lot better managing my emotions once it gets to this part and knowing that everything is going to be probably more amped up,” Keys said. “And not shying away from those, but just really being honest about it and talking about it.”

Keys won all 10 of her service games, saving the only two break points she faced. One came in the final game as she served for the victory, but she erased it with a forehand winner, part of a 22-10 edge in that category.

It all took less than one-and-a-half hours against Suarez Navarro, who eliminated five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in straight sets in her previous match, but has never made it to the semi-finals at a major.

Keys is that far for the fourth time in her career.

Last year, she was beaten by Sloane Stephens in the US Open final; Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe were the other semi-finalists, making it the first time in 36 years that the last four women in New York represented the US.

Keys was yesterday to play No. 20 Naomi Osaka for a chance to reach the final again. The other women’s semi-final is 23-time major champion Serena Williams against No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

Osaka was an easy winner in her quarter-final, eliminating unseeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in all of 57 minutes.

With Kei Nishikori defeating 2014 champ Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 in a rematch of the final four years ago at Flushing Meadows, Osaka and Nishikori gave Japan semi-finalists in both the men’s and women’s singles at the same Grand Slam tournament for the first time in tennis history.

“It’s great to see,” said Nishikori, who is to play 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals today.

Nishikori is into his third major semi-final — all in New York — but is still in search of his maiden Grand Slam trophy.

For 20-year-old Osaka, this is her first trip past the fourth round at a major.

She said she was “freaking out inside,” even if it certainly never showed.

Tsurenko had dealt with heat issues in the fourth round, when Osaka accused her of acting, and said after her lopsided loss that she was dealing with a sore throat and problems breathing.

“Today was not my day, obviously,” Tsurenko said.

However, it was Osaka’s. She is strong at the baseline and has learned to control her strokes with the coaching help of Sascha Bajin, who used to be Williams’ hitting partner.

“I believe that they kind of want to play the same, you know. They are very powerful. Big serves. Big hitters, both of them,” Bajin said. “But even on court, Serena is very aggressive, you know, and Naomi — I have to push her to get a fist pump out of her.”

Osaka only needed 12 winners, because a whopping 31 of her other points came via unforced errors by Tsurenko.

Nishikori, seeded 21st, and No. 7 Cilic traded the lead and momentum for more than four hours.

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