Kei Nishikori recalls tough times

Hope Soto
September 6, 2018

Newly minted U.S. Open semifinalist Naomi Osaka grew up on Long Island until she was 9, but tennis fans wouldn't be able to tell that by simply watching her on the court.

This time, Keys will play No. 20 Naomi Osaka on Thursday night for a chance to reach the final again.

Osaka became the first Japanese woman in 22 years to reach the semi-finals of a grand slam when she defeated Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1. Osaka routed Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1 in just 57 minutes, the third time in her five matches in the tournament that she finished in less than an hour.

The Japanese star, who lost to Cilic in his only grand slam final appearance to date four years ago, gained some semblance of revenge as he triumphed 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 in a match that lasted four hours and eight minutes.

Seventh-seeded Croat Cilic, a three-times Grand Slam finalist who reached the showpiece game in Melbourne this year, has had a fairly easy path to the quarters apart from a five-set tussle in the third round with Australian Alex de Minaur. Nishikori said this week that he was nervous once that championship match began - but Wednesday's match was nothing like that day.

The No. 21 seed continued his strong season after returning from a wrist injury that forced him to miss the US Open previous year and will play either No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic or unseeded John Millman.

"I think it's because of Kei", she said, holding her hands apart to show how much bigger Nishikori is in Japan, from where her family moved to NY when she was 3. I was up 4-1 and he came back.

When Millman apologized for leaving the court at that juncture, Djokovic replied, "I'm fine to have a little rest, " then sat down on his sideline bench without a shirt on and cooled off.

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Osaka was an easy victor in her quarterfinal, eliminating unseeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in all of 57 minutes.

Osaka said she has tried to keep this tournament business-like as she navigates her way through the draw, but her triumph in NY is not just about advancing her career.

"The quarters was sort of my mental goal, every time I played a Grand Slam", said Osaka.

"It's good to have, you know, home support outside of Japan", he said.

She pushed some balls a few feet past the baseline, often failing to make Osaka do anything special to win a point and finishing with 31 unforced errors.

Keys punched her ticket with a victory over Carla Suarez Navarro on Wednesday.

That penchant to perform in big moments makes her coach feel better about Osaka's relative lack of experience as she moves deeper into the U.S. Open.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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