Japan’s Kei Nishikori edged past Andy Murray in a see-sawing five set thriller in the US Open quarterfinal. The number six seed won 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal since 2014.
At the end of an encounter that was as gripping for the spectators as it was gruelling for the players, Nishikori raised his fists to the air in triumph as Murray, the number 2 seed, swiftly exited the court, stopping only to sign a couple of autographs.
The Japanese player, a beaten finalist in this tournament in 2014, will now play Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Warinka in the last four on Friday.
A shade over four hours earlier Nishikori almost got off to a dream start, taking a 0-40 lead in the opening game before Murray came roaring back to hold serve. The number six seed won his first service game too. But that was to prove as good as it got for Nishikori in the first set, as Murray found his best form, breaking his opponent’s serve twice to seal a ruthless 6-1 first set win.
The players traded blows at the start of the second set, with Nishikori showing increased attacking intent, before a brief rain break at 3-3. The interlude seemed to galvanize the underdog still further – Nishikori broke Murray to love in the ninth game before holding serve to tie the match at 1-1.
Murray, who won this year’s Wimbledon after losing the Australian and French Open finals to Djokovic, looked to be pulling away again when he took the third set to lead 2-1, Nishikori hitting a series of unforced errors at crucial times.
The pendulum swung once more in the fourth set, with Murray suddenly the man making mistakes. Nishikori pounced to give himself a great chance of making his first Grand Slam semifinal since he lost to Marin Cilic of Croatia in the 2014 US Open.
As the game clock ticked past three hours, it was the Japanese player who struck first in the final set, breaking serve in the first game, only for Murray to level things up three games later. The players exchanged breaks again later in the set before Nishikori earnt himself the chance to serve for the match, much to Murray’s frustration – the Scot hammered the net cord with his racquet.
But Nishikori wasn’t to be denied this time as Murray dumped a routine backhand in to the net and sparked Japanese celebrations.