Kei Nishikori stayed the course to beat Marin Cilic over five sets on Wednesday and make the semi-finals of the US Open for the second time.
The Japanese star, who lost to Cilic in his only grand slam final appearance to date four years ago, gained some semblance of revenge as he triumphed 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 in a match that lasted four hours and eight minutes.
Cilic started better, and was clinically efficient in the opener, breaking Nishikori with his only two opportunities to take the lead.
The second set looked to be going the same way when the Croat broke again in game six for a 4-2 lead, but Nishikori dug in and hit straight back, winning the next three games to level the match.
After Nishikori took the next set on a tiebreaker, it was Cilic’s turn to fight back as the 2014 champion needed just a single break in game seven to take the match into a decider.
But it was the No. 21 seeded Asian who prevailed, ending Cilic’s resistance after he had fought back to level the match from 4-1 down with a break in game 10, as Nishikori continued his strong form since returning from a wrist injury that saw him miss last year’s tournament.
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“It was really tough, especially at the end. It’s always a battle with Marin,” said Nishikori afterwards.
“I don’t know why we always play five sets but it was good tennis. I wouldn’t like to go to five sets every time but I try to fight every point and stay focused one point at a time.”
He play either No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic or unseeded Australian John Millman in Friday’s semi-final.
The win, along with compatriot Naomi Osaka’s earlier one-sided 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Lesia Tsurenko, means Japan have a men’s and women’s semi-finalist at the same Grand Slam for the first time in the professional era.
Japan’s previous best was at Wimbledon in 1995, when both Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date lost in the quarter-finals.
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