By Ann Liguori
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Tenth seed Kei Nishikori became the first Japanese player in the Open Era to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal with a five-set win over 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
And what a win it was, his second straight match lasted more than four hours, this one lasting four hours and 15 minutes. The fact that his legs were even working during another marathon match is truly amazing.
Just two days ago, Nishikori prevailed in a marathon match in the fourth round that started Monday evening and ended early Tuesday morning at 2:26 a.m., tying the record for the latest ending match. That match lasted four hours and 19 minutes as Nishikori took out fifth seed Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, overcoming eight Raonic aces and 86 winners.
Nishikori also became the first player whose match ended after 2 a.m. to win his very next match of the tournament.
What a turnaround for 10th seed Nishikori against third seed WaWrinka. After dropping the first set 3-6, Nishikori won the second set 7-5 and took the third set in an incredible tiebreaker, 8-6. Each player came up with dazzling winners.
Wawrinka had a set point in the tiebreaker but Nishikori minimized his mistakes and came up with another winner to take a 2-1 set lead. Wawrinka answered back winning the fourth set tiebreaker but Nishikori, almost looking numb from exhaustion, grabbed the fifth set 6-4. Seventy-eight unforced errors for Wawrinka overall to Nishikori’s 41 was the difference.
Nishikori is coached by Michael Chang, a U.S. Open finalist in 1996 and the winner of the 1989 French Open. Chang has been coaching Nishikori since January of this year and by the way he looks when the TV camera catches his expressions during the match, he feels every point from his student.
Nisikori is not a new name here as he made his U.S. Open debut in 2008 when he ousted then fourth seed David Ferrer out of the championship in the fourth round. But last year he disappeared early when he was upset by a qualifier in the first round. He has finished in the top 25 in the past three years while becoming the highest-ranked player from Japan in ATP history.
Wawrinka has had an excellent year winning his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open this year when he surprised Novak Djokovic 9-7 in the fifth set in the quarters there. He then went on to beat none other than top-ranked Rafael Nadal in four sets for the title.
Both players are to be commended, but what a win for the Japanese player who gutted out another spectacular victory.
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