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AFP
September 7, 2018

Djokovic to face Nishikori in US Open semi-final

Sports

AFP
September 7, 2018

NEW YORK: Two-time champion Novak Djokovic ended John Millman’s fairytale US Open run on Wednesday, beating the 55th-ranked Australian in straight sets to book a semi-final clash with Kei Nishikori.

The Serbian star, who ended a 54-week title drought with his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, defeated the tenacious Aussie 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his 11th US Open semi-final in his last 11 appearances.

He lifted the trophy in 2011 and 2015.Nishikori, the 21st seed, advanced with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic — the man who beat him in the 2014 final.

Millman, who stunned five-time champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, kept Djokovic running — and was kept running himself — for 2 hours 49 minutes on another hot, humid night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“You survive on the court then thrive with a win,” said Djokovic, who converted just four of his 20 break points and made 53 unforced errors before he was finally able to accomplish what Federer couldn’t in seeing off Millman.

It was clear that it could be a long night when the players battled for more than 15 minutes in the sixth game of the opening set, Millman saving four break points.

The Aussie saved another four in the opening game of the second set and as the duel continued both players were clearly feeling the effects of long, entertaining rallies.

Millman, his clothes soaked, made the unorthodox request to go change after the fourth game of the second set — Djokovic agreeing.Nishikori appeared to be in control of the fifth set with a break for a 3-1 lead.

He had two game points for a 5-2 lead but a double fault and a backhand wide opened the door for Cilic, who stormed through, shouting “Got it!” when he secured the break to narrow the gap to 4-3.

But Nishikori broke Cilic in the final game, capturing the match with a blistering service return.“I try to fight every point,” said Nishikori, who boasts an impressive record in decisive sets.

“Especially in the end I really focus on every point,” he said but added: “I wish I don’t go to five sets every time.”Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese woman in 22 years to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam when she defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in the last eight, admitting she was “freaking out” inside.

Osaka wasn’t born when compatriot Kimiko Date made the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1996 but now the 20-year-old has the opportunity to go one better by reaching a maiden Grand Slam final.

To get to Saturday’s championship match, 20th seed Osaka will have to get past US 14th seed Madison Keys who breezed past Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-3.

Keys, the 2017 runner-up, leads Osaka 3-0 in career meetings including the third round at the US Open in 2016 when she battled back from 1-5 in the final set to triumph.Osaka swept aside 36th-ranked Tsurenko in just 57 minutes as the Ukrainian’s challenge fizzled out in a deluge of mistakes.

The 29-year-old, who had knocked out world number two and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the second round, hit 31 unforced errors and won just seven points off the Japanese star’s serve.

Osaka broke in the second and sixth games of the opening set which was wrapped up in just 24 minutes.The crisis soon deepened for Tsurenko, who had needed the best part of three hours on Monday to beat Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in a match where she almost collapsed due to heat exhaustion.

Keys, the runner-up to Sloane Stephens last year, took her record over Suarez Navarro to 4-0 thanks to a break in the ninth game of the first set and sixth of the second.The American fired 22 winners and six aces past Suarez Navarro who had knocked out former champion Maria Sharapova in the previous round.

Suarez Navarro has now lost all seven Grand Slam quarter-finals she has contested.Keys said she will look to home support when she resumes her rivalry with Osaka.“When I was 5-1 down in 2016, the crowd pulled me through. They never gave up on me,” she said. —AFP

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