• US Open

Nishikori makes history with shock win against Djokovic

ESPN staff
September 6, 2014
Kei Nishikori is the 10th seed at Flushing Meadows © Getty Images
Enlarge

Kei Nishikori made history on court Arthur Ashe at Flushing Meadows as the US Open 10th seed defeated world No.1 Novak Djokovic in four sets to become the first Japanese male player to reach a grand slam final.

In just less than three hours on court in difficult, hot conditions, Nishikori prevailed with a 6-4 1-6 7-6(4) 6-3 win to send the New York crowd into raptures and end top seed Djokovic's hopes of a fifth consecutive US Open final appearance.

"I was a little bit tight, especially with it being my first semi-final in a grand slam. It's just an amazing feeling beating the number one player. They were tough conditions today. I guessed I would have to play a long match and hopefully I can recover well for the final," Nishikori said.

Both players were affected by the heat and humidity on court Arthur Ashe © Getty Images
Enlarge

"He started to play much better after the first set, more aggressive, but I tried to forget about the second set and focus again. [Coach] Michael Chang has been helping me a lot, he is the reason I'm here. I hope it's big news in Japan. I feel the support from Japan, even on the TV."

Under coach Chang, the 1989 French Open champ, Nishikori has sharpened his mental game to pull out victories like these.

The midday sun beat down on Arthur Ashe and a thermometer on court showed the temperature nearing 100 degrees (37 Celsius), not counting the humidity of close to 70%.

Nishikori broke serve early in the opening set; after a rare Djokovic error, Nishikori thumped a forehand winner to draw first blood. However, the world No.1 reacted swiftly with a break-to-love and levelled proceedings.

The Serbian, though, was unravelled again in game seven. Facing three break points, Djokovic saved one with a volley but could only watch as Nishikori's forehand down the line kissed the white mark.

Two routine holds from Nishikori ensured his first appearance in a grand slam semi-final would not end in a straight sets defeat.

However, Nishikori's game completely evaporated in the second set as Djokovic romped to level the tie in 30 minutes. Nishikori sent a wild backhand into the tramlines to gift his opponent a break, before Djokovic battled from deuce in game six to inflict further damage.

A sixth ace of the match for Djokovic earned him the second set, but Nishikori was far from overwhelmed.

A dazzling return saw Nishikori break in the third to move 5-3 up, but a double fault handed his opponent an immediate reprieve. After finding himself 40-15 down, Djokovic rallied to save deuce and let out a thunderous bellow after pulling the set back to 5-5.

However, Nishikori was the one roaring at the set's conclusion. First, a weak return caught the tape and then Djokovic followed up with an overcooked forehand to put Nishikori one set away from the biggest scalp of his professional career.

Djokovic surrendered his serve instantly in the fourth with a tired forehand before Nishikori made a vital hold having faced three break points in the very next game.

The pair traded blows before Nishikori sealed victory with another break. Both thumped the ball back and forth on the baseline, with several efforts drawing nervous gasps from the crowd.

However, those gasps turned to rapturous applause when Djokovic misjudged and hit long, leaving his opponent celebrating not only his greatest ever win - but an exhilarating piece of history to go with it.

Novak Djokovic was denied a fifth successive US Open final appearance © Getty Images
Enlarge
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
ESPN staff Close