NEW YORK (AFP) – Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the first Asian man to make a Grand Slam final, faces fellow first-timer Marin Cilic for the US Open title on Monday hoping to open a new frontier in tennis in Asia.
After top seeds Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were disposed of in the semi-finals, the championship match will be the first not to feature either Djokovic, Federer or Rafael Nadal since the 2005 Australian Open.
No wonder Nishikori is still pinching himself after knocking out Wimbledon champion and seven-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“I am a little bit surprised for me to play the final,” said the 24-year-old, whose previous best Grand Slam run had been a quarter-final at the 2012 Australian Open.
His win over Djokovic, his second in three career meetings with the world number one, followed a five-set quarter-final triumph over fifth seed Milos Raonic and another five-set, four and a quarter-hour marathon against third-seeded Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
His success comes despite his having to sit out the Toronto and Cincinnati Masters on the eve of the US Open to have a cyst removed from his toe, a painful problem which almost forced him to skip New York.