NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori advanced to the US Open semi-finals on Wednesday with a grinding 2-6 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6-6-4 win over Marin Cilic, gaining a small measure of revenge on the man who crushed his grand slam dream in the 2014 final.
It was a much different outcome from 2014 when the big-hitting Cilic floored the Japanese counter-puncher 6-3 6-3 6-3 to claim the US title.
Nishikori will now take on twice US Open champion Novak Djokovic for a spot in Sunday’s final.
After reaching the final in Monte Carlo, the French Open fourth round and the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Nishikori believes an elusive first grand slam is within reach.
“Yeah, always excited to play Novak because it’s (a) great challenge for me,” said Nishikori about facing Djokovic.
Cilic took the opening set. The Japanese earned his first break chance at 2-4 in the second set and converted.
As Nishikori began to find his rhythm Cilic started to misfire and the Japanese 21st seed collected a second consecutive break before holding serve to level the match.
The tide continued to turn in the third set as Nishikori chipped away at the faltering Cilic with a third successive break.
Cilic levelled at 4-4, but Nishikori stole the set with the help of two double faults in the tiebreak.
The Croat took the fourth and the roller coaster ride continued into the fifth with Nishikori grabbing the advantage with a break at 3-1 and taking Cilic’s serve again with a blistering return winner to close out victory.