Kei Nishikori of Japan celebrates after defeating Marin Cilic of Croatia during their quarter-final match on the tenth day of the US Open. Photo: Justin Lane/EPA

NEW YORK – Kei Nishikori reached the US Open semi-finals on Wednesday, holding on for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic - the man who beat him in the 2014 final.

Japan's Nishikori, who missed last year's US Open after a season-ending wrist injury, joined compatriot Naomi Osaka in reaching the semis - the first time that a Japanese man and woman have reached the last four in the same Grand Slam.

Nishikori, the 21st seed, will take on either 13-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or 55th-ranked Australian John Millman for a place in the final.

Nishikori stunned then-world number one Djokovic in the semi-finals in 2014 to become the first man from an Asian country to reach the championship match of a major.

Marin Cilic congratulates Kei Nishikori at the net. Photo: John G. Mabanglo/EPA
Marin Cilic congratulates Kei Nishikori at the net. Photo: John G. Mabanglo/EPA

But he hasn't returned to a Grand Slam final since, falling in the US Open semis in 2016.

Ranked as high as fourth in the world in 2015, Nishikori made a cautious return to competition early this year, finally finding enough confidence and consistency to put together a quarter-final run at Wimbledon.

Against Cilic he labored for 4 hours and 8 minutes.

"It was really tough, especially in the end I was up 3-2 and he came back - I don't know why but it's always a battle with Marin," said Nishikori, who stretched his career record over the seventh-seeded Croatian to 9-6.

Nishikori appeared to be in control of the fifth set with a break for a 3-1 lead.

He had two game points for a 5-2 lead but a double fault and a backhand wide opened the door for Cilic, who stormed through, shouting "Got it!" when he secured the break to narrow the gap to 4-3.

But Nishikori broke Cilic in the final game, capturing the match with a blistering service return.

"I try to fight every point," said Nishikori, who boasts an impressive record in decisive sets. "Especially in the end I really focus on every point," he said but added: "I wish I don't go to five sets every time."

Agence France-Presse (AFP)