Nishikori avenges US Open loss to reach fi­nal

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JIM SLATER

Ja­pan’s Kei Nishikori avenged his loss to Marin Cilic in last year’s U.S. Open fi­nal, de­feat­ing the Croa­t­ian 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 Satur­day to reach the ATP and WTA Washington Open fi­nal.

The 25-year-old Asian num­ber one ral­lied to oust the reign­ing U. S. Open cham­pion and ad­vanced to Sun­day’s ti­tle match against U. S. eighth seed John Is­ner, who fired 31 aces and saved three match points to edge Amer­i­can Steve John­son 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9).

Fifth- ranked Nishikori im­proved to 6-3 all-time against Cilic in their first meet­ing since he missed a chance to be­come the first Asian man to win a Grand Slam ti­tle by los­ing last year’s Flush­ing Mead­ows fi­nal.

“It’s great to have re­venge,” Nishikori said. “To­day I was play­ing very much bet­ter against Cilic. It was im­por­tant to play well. Hope­fully I will keep it go­ing.”

Is­ner beat Nishikori four months ago in a Mi­ami quar­ter­fi­nal in their only prior meet­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing sort of clicked for me that day,” Is­ner said. “I played ex­tremely well. That was my best match of the year. I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to have to bring that again to­mor­row.”

Is­ner seeks his 11th ca­reer ATP ti­tle af­ter win­ning last week in At­lanta while Nishikori seeks his 10th ca­reer ti­tle af­ter crowns at Mem­phis and Barcelona this year.

“It was a great win for me,” Nishikori said. “Over­all, I’m play­ing well, very ag­gres­sive. The last two sets I was very happy with my ten­nis.”

De­spite the de­feat, eighthranked Cilic felt the week was a solid start on the path to de­fend­ing his U.S. Open crown.

“Over­all I’m pretty sat­is­fied with the way I was play­ing,” Cilic said. “Def­i­nitely it has given me some vi­sion of what I’m go­ing to fo­cus on the next days and weeks.

“In my next match I will try and be more fo­cused on my serve, to be more deadly.”

Stephens Makes First Fi­nal

On the women’s side, Amer­i­can Sloane Stephens reached her first WTA ca­reer fi­nal by elim­i­nat­ing Aus­tralian sec­ond seed Sa­man­tha Sto­sur 7-6 (7/4), 6-0. She will play for the ti­tle against Rus­sia’s Anas­ta­sia Pav­lyuchenkova, who ad­vanced 4-6, 6-3 when top-seeded com­pa­triot Eka­te­rina Makarova re­tired with a right leg in­jury.

Stephens ended her long wait in her 84th WTA tour­na­ment, hav­ing been the world’s high­es­tranked player with­out a fi­nals ap­pear­ance at 35th, six prior semi­fi­nal losses in­clud­ing the 2013 Aus­tralian Open.

“Fi­nally, the long- awaited fi­nal,” Stephens said. “I don’t know how it’s sup­posed to feel. It’s like OK, what now? Now peo­ple can stop talk­ing about me — I’m re­ally happy to do it.”

Cilic won the first set in 35 min­utes but Nishikori roared back in the sec­ond to force a third. Af­ter dou­ble-fault­ing away a break in the eighth game, Nishikori broke for a 5-4 lead and held for the tri­umph.

“I started to hit a lit­tle more ag­gres­sively in the sec­ond set,” Nishikori said. “I had to change men­tally a lit­tle bit. The third set he came back and I had to con­cen­trate again.”

Is­ner, the 2007 and 2012 Washington run­ner- up, and John­son ex­changed lone breaks over the first two sets. In the tiebreaker, John­son missed a fore­hand on his first match point and Is­ner fired the first of four con­sec­u­tive aces to save the sec­ond. The drama turned when Is­ner charged the net and hit a back­hand volley win­ner, then closed the match with a ser­vice win­ner.

“My serve bailed me out,” Is­ner said. “I’m so ex­cited to be back in the fi­nal. Hope­fully it’ll be third time lucky.”


Sloane Stephens re­turns the ball against Sa­man­tha Sto­sur, of Aus­tralia, dur­ing a women’s semi­fi­nal match at the Citi Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in Washington, Satur­day, Aug. 8.

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