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Social Sound Off: Facts about men

Social Sound Off: Man Facts
By Nicholas J. Walz
Friday, September 5, 2014

The day heralded in decades past as “Super Saturday” is upon us at the US Open. Nowadays, matches are now more evenly spread out all the way through a Monday men’s final – once upon a time, the start of the Open’s final weekend meant two men’s semifinal matches and a women’s final, a triple main event held on the same court.

Yet the men’s semis remain, and the potential for two tremendous affairs is there with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic taking on No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori, followed by No. 2 Roger Federer facing off against No. 14 Marin Cilic. Wins by the favored Djokovic and Federer, who challenged one another through five tense sets to decide the Wimbledon championship just two months ago, would set up just the second instance in the last 33 years in which the Wimbledon finalists have also met in the Open final. (For fact checkers: the other time was in 2011, with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Before that, rivals John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg turned the trick in 1980 and 1981.)

Yet what of Nishikori, who sat out crucial Open tune-ups in Toronto and Cincinnati and still has had the legs to reach the penultimate round? Or Cilic, who has rebounded from suspended star in 2013 to his deepest run at an Open in his young career?

Few predicted this exact foursome, and there are a few interesting facts about their runs that may convince you that each just may be the one to lift a Tiffany & Co. trophy:

Novak Djokovic Fact: It sounds subjective to say that the Grand Slams run through Djokovic, the most consistent player on the planet today, but there are numbers to back up that claim: The 2011 US Open winner and five-time Open finalist – including the last four in a row – comes to New York carrying a streak of 13 Grand Slam events dating back to the 2011 French Open in which he has either a) won the tournament (five times), or b) lost to the eventual winner. Should he beat Nishikori, he’ll assure that at the very least, that run will continue no matter what happens in the final.

Kei Nishikori Fact(s): Nishikori is the sole men’s player making his major semifinal debut – and he certainly earned his way here, on the strength of his last two victories over No. 5 Milos Raonic and No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka, both dramatic five-setters. Not since Juan Martin del Potro in 2009, that year’s eventual winner, has a first-time semifinalist won and advanced to the final. Coincidentally, Nishikori is the first non-European since the Argentine del Potro to make the Flushing Meadows final four. The 24-year-old from Japan will hope to replicate del Potro’s success from five years ago.

Marin Cilic Fact: Staying with the theme of nations, Croatia’s Cilic is just the second player from his country, man or woman, to reach a US Open semifinal. The other was the 25-year-old’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, who made it that far back in 1996 before losing to No. 1 Pete Sampras. The last few years have been kind to the small European republic as it relates to the Open, with juniors Ana Konjuh and Borna Coric winning girls’ and boys’ singles titles last year and the surprising runs of Cilic and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who reached the round of 16, at this year's tournament.

Roger Federer Fact: The Swiss is the only man left in the 2014 draw who has faced match point and lived to play on, after Frenchman Gael Monfils had two opportunities to put Federer away in the fourth set of their Thursday quarterfinal. And there is precedent for players eventually winning the Open when pushed to the absolute brink of elimination: five men have rallied to do it, the last being Djokovic in 2011. In that year’s semifinals, the Serb found a way to win after dropping the first two sets, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to advance.

His opponent that day? Roger Federer. Let's see if events come full circle come Monday.

So, fans, it's time to sound off: which fact about the men's semifinalists is most sensational?