Monday 19 March 2018

Nishikori digs deep to see off Murray

Nishikori: Epic victory. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images
Nishikori: Epic victory. Photo: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Paul Newman

Life is often less than straightforward when Andy Murray is on the court and his US Open campaign ended in dramatic circumstances last night. Murray was leading by two sets to one and looking comfortable in his quarter-final against Kei Nishikori before suffering a meltdown from which he never fully recovered.

Nishikori, who won 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, had been facing an uphill battle until a crucial incident early in the fourth set turned the match around. The 26-year-old Japanese, serving at 1-1 and 30-40, seemed about to lose the next point when the umpire, Marija Cicak, halted play after the stadium's PA system emitted an untimely loud bleep in the middle of the rally.

Murray was furious, claiming that Cicak had earlier said that they would play through any noise distractions, and after losing the game the Scot made his point to one of the tournament supervisors. His focus diverted, however, Murray lost 13 of the next 15 points and did not win another game until he trailed 2-0 in the deciding set.

The Scot brought the score back to 2-2 in the fifth set and recovered another break to level at 4-4, however, at 5-5, it was Nishikori's turn to make what proved to be the decisive break of the match.

At 30-30 Murray double-faulted and on the next point Nishikori won a superb rally with a volley which ended with Murray slamming his racket into the net. On Nishikori's first match point, Murray netted a backhand to give the Japanese victory after three hours and 57 minutes.

The world No 7 enjoys this event and played in his only Grand Slam final here two years ago, when he lost to Marin Cilic after knocking out Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.

Murray, who had lost only one match since his defeat to Djokovic in the French Open final three months ago, had been viewed in some quarters as the favourite to win his fourth Grand Slam title here. He had also been just two wins away from becoming only the fourth man in the Open era - after Rod Laver, Roger Federer and Djokovic - to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same year.

However, it will be Nishikori who goes through to tomorrow's semi-finals, with Novak Djokovic facing Gael Monfils in the other semi.

Murray, who had not lost in his previous six Grand Slam quarter-finals, had won seven of his eight meetings with Nishikori, including their most recent encounter in the Olympic semi-finals, but the Japanese came out on top when it mattered last night. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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