US Open: Kei Nishikori fights back to stun Andy Murray in five set thriller

Kei Nishikori booked his place in the semifinals at the US Open for the second time in three years as he fought back to defeat Andy Murray in five sets 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. The world number two led their head to head 7-1 but was unable to maintain his advantages at a set and a break up and when leading two sets to one as the Brit failed to reach the final of a Grand Slam for the first time this year.

Nishikori rues early missed opportunities to break serve

The world number two got off to an alarming start on serve as he quickly fell 0-40 down. The Brit dug deep and did as he had done in his previous match against Grigor Dimitrov, saving break points in the opening game to hold.

Murray moves through the first set quickly

The sixth seed got over the disappointment in the opening game to hold serve but was forced into uncomfortable errors as he was broken by Murray in the fourth game after Nishikori double faulted.

The Japanese player’s second serve continued to get burned as the former runner-up faced two more break points in the sixth game, having won just 20% of points behind his second serve in the set. Two unexpected backhand errors into the net from the Brit let Nishikori off the hook, but a double fault put him break point down again. Murray missed that opportunity as well but capitalized on two more unforced errors as Murray took a 5-1 lead.

The 2012 US Open champion needed just one opportunity to close out the set on serve, finishing with an ace as he wrapped it up 6-1 after 35 minutes.

Murray maintains his momentum

The second set went with serve until the fifth game where Murray applied the pressure at 0-30 on the sixth seeds serve. Nishikori fired down his first ace of the match and put away a great backhand volley on the stretch to get back to 30-30. The effort was to be in vain for the Japanese player as Murray hit out right back at him, striking punishing second serve returns to earn the break.

Nishikori fights back to level the match

With the sixth seed teetering on the brink down a set and a break, the 2014 runner-up came to life, breaking Murray to love a he ripped a cross court forehand winner to level at 3-3. The Brit looked to hit back as he moved up 0-30 on his opponents serve but as Nishikori hit back to lead 40-30 as the rain came down and the tournament directors decided to close the roof.

The players resumed and the sixth seed held to move 4-3 ahead. Play continued to go with serve as Nishikori took a 5-4 lead. The Japanese player struck a sweet second serve return down the line winner to move to 30-30, before a backhand into the net from Murray brought up set point. An extended rally ended with another netted backhand from the Brit as Nishikori took the set 6-4 as the crowd erupted inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Murray could not find enough consistency on serve to see off the sixth seed. Photo: Getty
Murray could not find enough consistency on serve to see off the sixth seed. Photo: Getty

Murray edges a tight third set

Murray, three times a Grand Slam champion responded as expected and capitalized on a lull in the sixth seeds play at the start of the third set, breaking the former runner-up’s serve to love. An immediate break back loomed large as it did mid way through the second set as Nishikori took a 0-30 lead on the Brit’s serve. The world number two recovered to 30-30 but his opponent bounced back, securing the break back with a powerfully struck irretrievable backhand cross court.

After a couple of service holds from both players Murray made another important breakthrough in the seventh game. Nishikori had a chance to hold but let the game escape him as he hit a double fault to present break point, before he hit a cross court backhand wide to surrender his serve and fall 4-3 behind.

Murray then played an inexplicable service game as the Brit let a 40-0 lead fade into another break back for Nishikori as he pulled level for a second time in the set at 4-4. The world number two then hit back yet again as he raised the intensity levels to break the sixth seed for a sixth time.

When serving for the third set Murray played his best service game of the match, holding to love as he fired down three unreturnable serves and a backhand down the line winner to finish, taking the set 6-4.

Audio system malfunction see’s the Brit lose his concentration as he swiftly drops the fourth set

Murray was attempting to take a firm grip of the match in the third game of the fourth set as be brought up a break point chance. During the point, which was turning into an intense rally, an unexpected noise burst on the PA system which resulted in the umpire calling a let and for the point to be replayed. Murray then missed his next two service returns and vented his anger towards the referee over her decision as Nishikori progressed to hold.

USTA statement following the incident on Ashe during the match. Photo: USTA
USTA statement following the incident on Ashe during the match. Photo: USTA

That decision continued to anger him in the next game as he lashed at a few shots as the Brit was broken for the fifth time in the match, losing eight of the last 10 points as he fell 3-1 behind.

A convincing hold of serve was soon followed by even more joy for the sixth seed as he broke Murray’s serve at the second time of asking in the game to all but seal the set. Nishikori had no problems closing out a fairly easy set for the former finalist, holding to love to take it 6-1.

Players trade breaks back and forth in the final set

The signs looked ominous for the 2012 champion as he dropped serve immediately at the start of the final set. Trailing 2-0 and locked in at 30-30 on serve the danger signs were flashing, but the Brit dug deep, demonstrating his champion mentality and qualities as he held serve and broke back after Nishikori put a forehand long.

Murray led 40-15 on serve but let it slip once again as Nishikori reeled off four points in a row to break the Brit once again and take a 3-2 lead. In the eighth game Nishikori led 40-15 as he looked to move 5-3 in front, but Murray came alive, drawing errors from the sixth seed as he broke back to level at 4-4.

Nishikori seizes the moment and seals the match

The world number two held a crucial service game to move a game away from the semifinals. Nishikori served well with the new balls and held to love to stay with the Brit to level at 5-5. The sixth seed took that momentum into the eleventh game as he applied pressure on Murray’s serve as he had done throughout the match with the exception of the first set. The 2014 finalist was rewarded as he broke the Brit’s serve and closed out the match on serve in style to book his place in the semifinals. The sixth seed will go on to face either Stan Wawrinka or Juan Martin del Potro on Friday.

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