NEW YORK: Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic set up a shock US Open final on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, with 24 Grand Slams between them, were dumped out in one sensational afternoon.
Japan’s Nishikori, the 10th seed, became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final when he swept past seven-time major winner and world number one Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 despite on-court temperatures of almost 40 degrees.
Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to reach the semi-finals in New York, goes on to face Croatian 14th seed Cilic in Monday’s championship match after he also reached a maiden Grand Slam final by beating five-time New York winner Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
It will be the first major final that has not featured one of the big three of Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal since the Australian Open final in 2005 when Marat Safin defeated Lleyton Hewitt.
The 27-year-old Djokovic was the 2011 champion in New York. He was playing in his eighth successive US Open semi-final and bidding for a sixth final, his 15th overall at the majors.
In contrast, 24-year-old Nishikori’s best effort had been a run to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Australian Open.
“I was a little bit tight especially as it was my first semifinal in a Grand Slam but it’s just an amazing feeling to beat the number one player,” said Nishikori.
“It was tough conditions, it was a little heavy and humid but I guess I love to play long matches.”
Djokovic, playing in his 17th semifinal of the last 18 Grand Slam events, admitted Nishikori was the better player.
“He played some great tennis. I congratulate him for the effort. He was the better player today,” said the Serb.
Cilic, who missed the 2013 US Open as he sat out a doping ban, overwhelmed 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer with 13 aces and 43 winners.
The second seeded Swiss, the champion between 2005 and 2008, was bidding at 33 to become the oldest winner of a Grand Slam title in more than 40 years and vying to reach a seventh final in New York.
Instead, he was out-played by the 25-year-old Cilic, ranked 16th in the world, whose only prior appearance in a major semifinal was at the 2010 Australian Open.