Then there were four: Nishikori stuns Murray, Wawrinka powers past Del Potro to reach US Open semi-finals
Kei Nishikori stunned Andy Murray to reach the US Open semi-finals, holding his nerve in a gripping final set to move to within two wins of becoming the first Asian man to capture a grand slam singles title.
Nishikori, 26, clinched a dramatic 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory in just under four hours against the Wimbledon and Olympic champion and 2012 US Open winner.
In Friday’s semi-final, the Japanese No 6 seed will take on Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka who defeated 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 Briton Dan Evans, will be playing in a third US Open semi-final in four years.
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• Ahmed Rizvi: Is it time to admit Nadal is a spent force?
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,” Wawrinka said.
“I tried to make longer rallies. I tried to go back a little bit to make him play more balls, keep him on the backhand side and tried to dictate.”
In a match which featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori prevailed for only his second win in nine matches against world No 2 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.”
Del Potro, the world No 142 and bidding to become the lowest ranked man to reach a grand slam semi-final in 16 years, rushed to a 4-1 lead in the first set against Wawrinka.
The Swiss broke back in the seventh game and although Del Potro, whose career was almost derailed by a series of wrist injuries, saved two set points in the tiebreaker, a rare forehand error gave up the set.
The Argentine’s bruising recent schedule had seen him claim an Olympic silver medal last month and he used that experience to claim the only break for a 4-3 lead in the second set.
But the Swiss world No 4 was looking the fresher as the clock ticked towards and then past 1am local time (9am UAE). He took the third set 6-3, hitting twice as many powerful winners.
Del Potro was a spent force and gave up a double break in the fourth set on his way to defeat but leaving him at least with the compensation of being back in the top 65 after being ranked as low as 1,045 in February.
He was in tears on the eve of the final game before the two men embraced at the net.
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Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM