Kei Nishikori is the Energizer Bunny of this year’s US Open.
He got off the court Tuesday morning at 2:26 a.m., after an epic five-set upset of No. 5 seed Milos Raonic which took four hours and 19 minutes.
Less than 36 hours later, he was back to take on Stan Wawrinka, this year’s Australian Open winner and a semifinalist here last year. Somehow, Nishikori prevailed, again in five exceedingly tense sets, over the No. 3 seed, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
Nishikori shaved all of four minutes off his previous match. In reaching his first career Grand Slam, he became the first Japanese man since 1918 to reach the men's singles semifinals.
“My body was OK,” said an exhausted Nishikori. “I got more confidence, but I don’t know how I finished the game.”
As the sun dipped over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the quarterfinal match pivoted on dramatic swings of momentum. Nishikori started lethargically and looked to be fading by the final set. Yet the Japanese found a way to withstand 68 winners off Wawrinka’s racquet, including 18 aces.
Nishikori found one answer by shortening points: he raced to net 37 times, winning 29 of those points against one of the biggest hitters in the game.
The pivotal third-set tiebreak was a microcosm of the match, with each player squandering mini breaks. Wawrinka held a 5-3 lead but couldn’t grasp the advantage.
While Nishikori could convert on just three of 10 break-point chances all afternoon, he snatched that critical last break with Wawrinka serving at 4-5 in the fifth set. When Wawrinka tentatively dumped a forehand into the net, Nishikori advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal.
The 10th seed looked too exhausted to celebrate.