Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori earned his place in tennis history on Saturday afternoon when he became the first Asian man to reach the final of a Grand Slam tournament. The tenth seed defeated Novak Djokovic in the semi-final round in four sets to earn his place in the United States Open final.
In what turned out to be a day marred with upsets, Nishikori toppled the world No. 1 in four sets 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 to set up an encounter with fellow top seed vanquisher Marin Cilic, who reached his first US Open final with a straight sets victory over 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
“I was ready to play, you know, these kind of players always,” Nishikori revealed at the post-match press conference. “Especially this year I have been playing really well. I went to final in Masters once and, you know, I have been beating those top guys already. But I knew I was a little bit nervous, getting nervous, you know, first time semis here.
“But I think the confidence helped for today’s match. I was playing really well and really aggressive, and, you know, didn’t wait for the ball. Even the opponent is, you know, Novak, I was playing my tennis. Everything worked well today.”
One of the main topics of discussion heading into the semi-finals were the legends that all four contestants employ as coaches. Nishikori joined forces with Michael Chang ahead of the 2014 season and it has clearly shown outstanding results.
“Yeah, it’s been really helpful,” Nishikori said about his partnership with Chang. “He’s been help me a lot from end of last year. Also helping mentally. Yeah, him and Dante working really well, and I feel my tennis is changing little more aggressive and playing more confidence. He’s tough, but I, you know, sometimes needed, you know, something. Some people can push me well and, yeah, it’s been working really well I think.”
Nishikori and Cilic will meet in the US Open Final on Monday afternoon at 5pm ET. This will mark the first time that two non Grand Slam winners meet in a final since Djokovic and jo-Wilfried Tsonga met in 2008.