Japan has a representative in a Grand Slam final for the first time since, well, ever as Kei Nishikori defeated the reigning No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world Novak Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 to make it into the U.S. Open’s Men’s Final, setting up a meeting with Marin Cilic, who defeated Roger Federer.
Both players will be making their major championship final debuts.
“It’s exciting for the game, you know, to have different faces from time to time,” Federer said, according to Bloomberg. “It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms. Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Nishikori was “a step faster and a tad sharper all day” during his victory, which occurred during a temperature that hovered around 90 degrees and 61 percent humidity for much of the match.
Djokovic refused to use the heat as an excuse for the loss, saying, “The conditions were the same for both players.
“Other than the second set, my game today was less than I expected. I tried to do my best and I did. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Prior to this week, Nishikori and Cilic had combined for one Grand Slam semifinals appearance in 48 tournaments—Cilic’s loss to Andy Murray in the 2010 Australian Open. Nishikori had 50-1 odds to win the tournament before the tournament began, according to Las Vegas Hotel’s SuperBook. Cilic’s odds were 80-1.
Justin Gimelstob, an analyst for the Tennis Channel, said the final between Nishikori and Cilic has “a different type of value.”
“But it might not be realized during the match,” he said. “It might be realized when Kei Nishikori goes to play Tokyo in a few weeks. It might be realized when Marin Cilic goes to play Bercy in the fall. Or a couple years from now when they have major championships and, God forbid, Roger and Rafa (Nadal) aren’t around. There’s value in it, it’s just going to take getting used to.”
“I feel the support from Japan, even from the TV,” Nishikori said in a courtside interview. “It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, but I hope everyone’s watching.”