Kei Nishikori picked up his second career win over Andy Murray, beating the No. 2 seed 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals today at the US Open.
Murray led Nishikori 7-1 in their previous meetings including two this year at Rio and in Davis Cup which went five sets. This time it was Nishikori gaining revenge and reaching his second career Grand Slam semifinal.
The Japenese is also a perfect 5-0 against Top 10 players at the US Open and he’ll have about 48 hours to prepare for his semifinal against either Stan Wawrinka or Juan Martin del Potro. He made the finals in 2014 when he stunned Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.
Afterward, Nishikori talked to the press about the big win.
Q. With so much on the line and so much pressure, how would you describe your mental approach?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it was really difficult match. I didn’t quite start well and lost 6-1. I felt it was really quick and I was rushing a little bit and missing too much unforced errors.
But after rain delay I think I improve little bit with my coach, and I tried to change a little bit my tennis and start working a little bit better. I started get my rhythm back. Yeah, many breaks today.
Especially fifth set it was really tough. I was up 4-3, 40- love and lost the game. So there was many up and downs, but I tried to calm. I think that’s the most important thing I did today. Even though there was many up and downs I tried to stay tough.
Yeah, last couple games I took little chance, and, yeah, win the whole thing. So it was really tight game, but happy to win today.
Q. You mentioned the up and downs. You both had those. There were huge momentum shifts were taking place throughout the match. It also really, really felt like the house, if you will, the crowd, was really pulling for you. Did you feel that? Did that energize you and give you motivation and confidence?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah. I think I was too focused today, so I couldn’t really hear too much on the court.
But for sure the crowd helped me to get back in the game. Yeah, fourth and fifth I think I played one of the best tennis. It was great match.
Q. The let call after the loud noise, the point early in the fourth set, do you think they should have stopped that point?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I mean, definitely. My concentration went off. Yeah, I don’t know what’s the reason, but for sure they have to stop that.
Q. What does it mean for you to be honored with the sportsmanship award tonight?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, it’s a great honor to get sportsmanship. Well, I mean, I try to stay calm and I try not to do too many up and downs, especially my mental side.
I think especially today I think I did great, you know. Even though there was many times my focus went off, but especially during fourth and fifth set I tried to stay tough.
Yeah, it’s great to show that to the other people, you know. I’m always staying tough. Yeah, it’s great honor.
Q. After the rain delay you seemed to be working the points a little bit more. During the delay, what did Dante and Michael tell you?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, it was definitely my mistake that lost the first set. I was missing too much. Like I said, I think I was feeling a little bit rushed. I gave so many opportunity to him easy. Yeah, we talk a lot of things during the rain delay, and, yeah, I tried to change something. It worked well.
For sure it’s helped today’s game.
Q. If Stan wins tonight, will you share your thoughts on the Swiss player?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah. We just played in Toronto few weeks ago. He’s been playing, you know, good tennis.
But I think it’s gonna be tough match today. Delpo is playing great tennis. Yeah, I’m very excited to watch match tonight. I’m not sure who’s gonna win today.
You know, my side I try to stay focused, you know, even though whoever comes, you know, for the next round, either way it’s gonna be tough. Try to stay calm and ready for next one.
Q. Two great nations with tennis culture, Japan and Great Britain; match each other in the history. You are the first Japanese player in US Open history to beat a Great Britain player. Fred Perry beat Japanese player in five-setter. You beat Murray in a five-setter. What does it mean for you, making the history?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, I think it means a lot, especially I have been losing Andy a lot. I think seven times and I only won once. And especially this stage, you know, it’s big opportunity for me to play today’s match.
Well, yeah, I was really confident. I was ready to play today’s match. Actually, we just played this year really long match. I think it was close to five hours in Davis Cup and I lost the match, so it was great to revenge, you know, from Davis Cup.
Q. Since we don’t know which player you’ll play next, can we start first with Del Potro? How would you describe his forehand?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, I think he has best forehand right now on the tour. I think it’s most dangerous forehand right now. You know, he’s mixing little more backhand slice and topspin.
But, yeah, for sure his forehand is one of the best right now.
Q. And how about Wawrinka’s backhand?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, I might say same thing. (Laughter.) Well, one-hand backhand for sure he’s the best right now. Maybe total Djoko and Andy has, you know, great backhands, but he can lift the backhand really well. Yeah, I think it’s gonna be interesting, you know, big forehand and big backhand match today. So I think it’s gonna be fun match.
Q. A situation like in the fourth set, opponent’s arguing with the chair umpire, do you have a sense there that might be an opportunity to kind of shift momentum? Did you feel momentum shifting after that moment?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, I don’t really look up for opponents. Like I said, I think I was too focused today, so I couldn’t really have chance to see my opponents.
Yeah, I don’t really care about what, you know, they doing. I have to stay focused all the time and I have to, you know, think what I have to do for next points.
Yeah, I didn’t really take care of opponents today.
Q. You’re talking here about staying calm, staying focused, not getting distracted. How is your mental approach to staying in the moment in a match like that?
KEI NISHIKORI: In the end I think I did really well, but first and before rain delay I think I was little bit out of my concentration. I felt like I didn’t know what to do.
But after rain delay I think I was more focused and start playing better tennis, so I was getting more confidence during the match. And especially in the end. I think I wasn’t making many unforced errors and playing great tennis.
So confidence helped game today.
Q. You were quite successful at the net today. Did you make a conscious decision to come to the net more often against Andy?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, I see some opportunity to come in today so I tried to be aggressive. I saw that’s what I had to do. Especially against Andy. He has great defense. I don’t know why I did and serve and volley many today, but I was felt like and it was working. I think it was great mix-up serve and volley and come to the net a lot today.
Q. You seem like a calm, quiet, contained person. US Open is loud and boisterous. Why do you think you have so much success at this slam, your most successful slam?
KEI NISHIKORI: I don’t know. I think this courts and the ball; I live in Florida, so that also help me. Coming here it was very easy for me to prepare for this US Open.
Well, I love the crowd. It makes me more motivated. Yeah, it’s little bit different than other Grand Slam, you know. I think it’s more loud and it’s more like, you know, big party on the court. (Smiling.)
It’s very exciting.
Q. If you are to play Del Potro, you haven’t beat him before, but you also haven’t played since the London Olympics. Is it fair to say you’re a completely different player now than four years ago?
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, for sure. I think we both different player. Like I said, he’s mixing up little more backhand. He still have great serves and forehand. That’s for sure have to take care.
Yeah, I been see him a lot actually. I watch a lot of matches in Olympics and we practice a lot, too. I kind of know how he’s gonna play, so I try to focus my side.
Also, I mean, either guys wins, I really have to get good tactics for next match.
Q. Your demeanor on the court is very unique. It’s hard to say whether you just lost a game and got broken or you won after fantastic play. Looking miserable in both cases. Why is that? Is it your way of dealing with the stress or…
KEI NISHIKORI: Well, yeah, I try to stay calm, that’s for sure. I’m not the loudest guy on the tour for sure. I’m more calm, I think my private too. I mean, I try to show my guts and everything, you know, good energy on the court.
But I think it’s most important, you know, shouldn’t be too many up and downs, especially downs. Yeah, I try to stay positive all the time.
Q. Fourth and fifth you said you played some of your best tennis. Do you think that was some of the best tennis you have played in your career? Semifinals; finals two years ago. How much confidence do you have knowing you have been there before? How eager are you to get back and have that opportunity again?
KEI NISHIKORI: It’s tough to say one of the best tennis, but, yeah, some moments I think I played great tennis. I was feeling the ball really well. You know, I think I lost two, three times fifth sets my serve.
Yeah, so, I mean, cannot be the best, but still play, you know, great tennis to beat Andy. Especially last few games, you know, it was really a lot of pressure. Especially lost my serve 4-3, and I have to refocus again.
It was really tight moment. I think it’s gonna help for sure my experience. Yeah, very looking forward to play semis again here.
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