It was another magical US Open 2014 afternoon for Kei Nishikori who played his first Grand Slam semi-final thanks to five-set triumphs over Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka in the previous rounds. Today he was facing an even bigger challenge as he took on the World no. 1 Novak Djokovic who was bidding for his second Flushing Meadows title, yet to no avail. The contestants exchanged breaks early in the opener before the tenth seed Japanese restored his lead and served out the set some minutes later. The 2011 New York champion looked in better shape in the set two where he broke twice and capped it off by holding to love to level the terms.
The drama culminated in the third set in which Nishikori got his nose in front in the eight game, but Novak kept the set alive by immediately neutralizing the break. Kei opened the ensuing breaker by winning four consecutive rallies, yet it seemed that the top seed was back in action when he made it 5-4 following the rival’s double fault. However, another twist in the plot occurred as the Japanese obtained a set point against the serve and claimed the crucial set after Nole’s shot missed the target. The Serb was shocked again in the opening game of the set four, whilst squandering a triple break back point in the subsequent game did not help his confidence either. Inspired Nishikori scored three out of five aces in the eighth game before coming up with a pair of match points on Djokovic’s serve. The latter erased the first one with a service winner, but committed a forehand mistake at the end of a breathtaking rally to let Kei book his historic final ticket by winning 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3.
Fourteenth-seeded Marin Cilic will also contest his debut championship title at a Grand Slam event which he reached by eliminating Roger Federer. The second seed fought back from two sets down against Monfils in the quarter-final, but was helpless against the 25-year-old Croat who is in form of his life at the moment. He broke in the fourth game of the opener and went 4-1 up after rescuing a break back point before wrapping up the set by hitting an ace. Things were going from bad to worse for the five-time US Open title holder after giving away a serve in the opening game of the set two – Cilic gifted Roger no opportunities to claw back and seized the second set as well. A glimpse of hope appeared for the Swiss Maestro as he moved 2-0 ahead in the third set, but the invincible Croat turned it around to win 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. He has a negative 2-5 head-to-head record versus Nishikori who prevailed both times they have met in 2014 (Brisbane, Barcelona).