Top seeds Serena, Kerber on US Open collision course
New York—Kei Nishikori stunned Andy Murray to reach the US Open semi-finals, holding his nerve in a gripping final set to move two wins away from becoming the first Asian man to capture a Grand Slam singles title.
Japanese star Nishikori clinched a dramatic 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback triumph in a shade under four hours against the Wimbledon and Olympics winner and 2012 US Open champion.
In Friday’s semi-final, the 26-year-old will take on Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka who defeated tearful Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Wawrinka, who had to save a match point in his third round clash with Dan Evans, will be playing in a third US Open semi-final in four years.
The other semi-final on Friday will see defending champion Novak Djokovic take on 10th seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils.
“It was one of my toughest matches mentally and physically. Juan Martin’s an incredible player,” said Wawrinka.
In a match which featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori prevailed for only his second win in nine matches against world number two Murray.
His win came just three weeks after losing to Murray in the Olympic semi-finals.
“It was a really difficult match. I didn’t start well. I felt it was really quick and I was missing too much,” said Nishikori after reaching only his second Slam semi-final after his runner-up spot in New York in 2014.
“In the fourth and fifth sets I think I played some of the best tennis.”
Murray looked to be in control at two sets to one ahead and carving out a break point in the third game of the fourth when a loud gong-like sound burst from the malfunctioning public address system in Arthur Ashe stadium.
Umpire Marija Cicak ordered the point to be replayed much to the irritation of the Briton who lost his composure and the next five games as an acrobatic Nishikori levelled the tie.
Murray refused to blame his defeat on the incident.
“Definitely I would say to 4-1 I didn’t play a good game after I got out of the change of ends, and then he held pretty comfortably the next game,” said Murray.
“But after that, I don’t think so. There was a lot of time.”
Nishikori broke for 1-0 in the deciding set and backed it up for 2-0 before Murray stopped a seven-game losing streak to hold.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams seeks the next step in her bid for a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title when she takes on Karolina Pliskova on Thursday in the US Open semi-finals.
Williams was undaunted by the relatively quick turnaround to the evening semis after battling to a three-set victory over resourceful Romanian Simona Halep on Wednesday night.
“The whole year you play every single day,” Williams said, “so this is totally normal.”
Williams has been speeding past Grand Slam milestones throughout the tournament.
Her win over Halep—who saved a dozen break points in the second set—stretched her record for Grand Slam match wins by any player, male or female, to 309.
She’s gunning for an Open Era record seventh US Open title, which would also move her past the modern day record of 22 Slam titles she now shares with Steffi Graf and closer to Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24.—AFP