Tale of the tape: US Open menÈs semi-finals
Originally published on 06/09/14
Novak Djokovic v Kei Nishikori
Midday EST / 5pm UK; share 1-1 head-to-head record
We might know more about what to expect from Nishikori against the world No.1 had he not been forced to withdraw from their semi-final match-up at the Sony Open back in March.
Withdrawals and retirements have been an unwanted recurring theme in the Japanese world No.11’s narrative – he retired in the third set of his first Masters 1000 final against Rafael Nadal in Madrid, and in the run-up to the US Open he was forced to skip Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati due to an infected toe. All of which makes his displays of resilience in New York even more impressive.
Nishikori has played more than eight and a half hours of tennis in the second week of the US Open, beating No.5 seed Milos Raonic in the fourth round in a joint-record late finish on Monday night before returning less than 48 hours later to break the four-hour barrier once more against No.3 seed Stan Wawrinka to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final.
The task gets no easier against Novak Djokovic, who fought hard to split sets with Andy Murray in their quarter-final showdown before finding reserves of strength the Scot could not match to race away with a four-set victory.
Djokovic has reached the US Open final in each of the last four seasons and it will take something inspired from Nishikori to deny him the chance to win a second US Open crown. Then again, inspired tennis has been the story of his fortnight.
Roger Federer v Marin Cilic
Not before 1.30pm EST / 6.30pm UK; Federer leads the head-to-head 5-0
For this one, we have a little more background information. Federer has never lost to Cilic but was hard-pressed against him at the Rogers Cup in August, eventually prevailing 7-6(5) 6-7(3) 6-4 before admitting the tall Croatian was much improved since he started working with Goran Ivanisevic.
“He's really cleaned up his game,” Federer said of Cilic. “It feels it's not so much in the other guy's racket. It feels like he also has a say in the outcome, and that's kind of what you want, especially against top players.”
Having flown under the radar en route to the quarter-finals, Cilic caught a sub-par Tomas Berdych off guard and took full advantage to wrap up a straight sets victory and reach his second career Grand Slam semi-final.
For his part, Federer know he used one of his nine lives against Gael Monfils after recovering from match point down at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion has touched on vintage form throughout the summer but will need to be at his best to prevent Cilic from capitalising on the slow starts he made against both Monfils and Marcel Granollers in the third round.