IMG Academy’s Kei Nishikori continues historic run

IMG Academy’s Kei Nishikori continues historic run, becomes first Asian born player to reach Grand Slam final
after ousting Djokovic at U.S. Open | IMG Academy

September 06, 2014     by: Johnny Esfeller
KEI Tennis sept 2014

IMG Academy’s own Kei Nishikori was already on a historic run at the U.S. Open when he became the first Japanese player since 1918 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. Now, Nishikori occupies an even more significant place in tennis history as the first male Asian born player to reach a Grand Slam final today. Nishikori achieved the feat by ousting current world #1 ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia in four sets, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 to advance to the final.

Nishikori has called IMG Academy his training home since the age of 14, when he relocated from Shimane, Japan to Bradenton, Fla.through the Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund, started by former Sony executive Masaaki Morita to fund the education and training of promising Japanese tennis players. During the 2014 season, Nishikori broke into the ATP top-10 for the first time, reaching #9 in May. He also became the first male Japanese-born player to win a clay-court title on the ATP Tour. Additionally, he successfully defended his title in February at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, Tenn.

Nishikori waits to see if it will be world #3 ranked Roger Federer of Switzerland, or #16 ranked Marin Cilic of Croatia that he will face in the final when their semifinal match gets underway. The men’s final is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8 in Flushing, N.Y.

For more on Nishikori’s stunning upset of Djokovic, Yahoo Sports’ Danielle Elliot has the story

NEW YORK – He threw his racquet to the side and pumped both fists in the air. It was Kei Nishikori’s biggest show of emotion in this fortnight, and he’d earned it: No. 10 Nishikori’s phenomenal run through the U.S. Open continued on Super Saturday as the 24-year-old from Japan took down world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3 to earn his place in the final.

And so, for the first time in the Open Era, a Japanese player will contend for a Grand Slam trophy.

Djokovic came in the favorite. He is ranked No. 1 in the world, won here in 2011, and has six other Grand Slam titles on his resume. Today marked his eighth-straight U.S. Open semifinal appearance, and he was looking for his fifth-straight finals appearance. History wasn’t the only thing in his favor – Djokovic had only dropped one set in his road to the semis.

He brought all his tricks today, making Nishikori cover every inch of the court in stifling heat. Appearing in his first U.S. Open semifinal, Nishikori showed no signs that he was intimidated by Djokovic’s credentials, his serve or his drop shot.

They traded the first two sets, with Nishikori taking the first, 6-4, then Djokovic coming alive to take the second, 6-1. It looked like he’d take over from there, but Nishikori stuck with him, forcing a third-set tiebreak. Nishikori took the first four points, and Djokovic fought back to 3-4, then 4-5, but the attempt fell short. Nishikori took the tiebreak, for the 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 advantage heading into the fourth set. There, it was Nishikori looking more experience, converting two break points to go up 5-3.

But when Djokovic double faulted to give Nishikori a match point, the match felt over. What started as a thriller ended with a thud. Nishikori converted the break point at 30-40. Game, set, match.

This was the third time Djokovic and Nishikori have met. Having split the first two meetings. Djokovic is the only world No. 1 that Nishokori has beaten – and now, he’s done it twice.

If Roger Federer joins him in the final, it will be their fifth meeting. They have split the first four, including two this year. The only time they met on a hard court this year, Nishikori prevailed.

To get there, the 17-time Grand Slam champion first needs to beat Marin Cilic this afternoon. if Cilic advances, it will be the first time since 2004 that a Grand Slam final does not feature one of the Big 4 of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

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