Kei Nishikori will be eager to derail a resurgent Novak Djokovic when they face off for the 17th time at the US Open on Friday.
The Japanese superstar enters the tie as the underdog, given his recent lack of form and Djokovic’s 13-win streak against him. In fact, one has to turn back the clock to 2014 to find Nishikori’s last victory against the indomitable Serb.
Ironically, it was at the semi-final stage at the US Open and he won in four sets to reach his first and only grand slam final. Not that Nishikori remembers…
“I forgot about it,” quipped the 28-year-old when quizzed about the landmark victory at a press conference.
“I always have good memories here. It was a tough battle against Novak. Yeah, for sure it’s going to give me good confidence, even though I didn’t remember. Maybe I will try to watch the match again, if he wins, and get more confidence.”
Nishikori is coming off an impressive win over seventh seed Marin Cilic, where he controlled proceedings from the baseline to out-rally the tall Croatian. Despite the result, the world number 21 didn’t feel like he was at full tilt on court.
“It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t feel like I was playing my best tennis today, but I fought through somehow and that gives me big confidence playing semis in the next round,” he said after the win on Wednesday.
Perhaps Nishikori was being a touch humble, as Cilic – who has reached two of the last grand slam finals – certainly felt his sting.
“I felt once we were getting into the rallies he was slightly more consistent, and he had in, most of the rallies – not most of them, but maybe 60 per cent of the rallies – that he was the one that was dictating and creating chances,” said the world number seven.
“I felt that once he had the ball in the middle of the court, he was controlling and playing well what he’s doing usually well.”