Stan Wawrinka went through to his 1st US Open final with a comprehensive 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win over Japanese No.1 Kei Nishikori in the second semi-final of the US Open. The Swiss will now face World No.1 Novak Djokovic in the final on Sunday, which will be a rematch of the 2015 French Open final.
The second semi-final at the Arthur Ashe stadium saw a tiresome and exhausting encounter between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. After one of the oddest tennis matches ever to be seen (Djokovic vs Monfils), a normal tennis game would’ve been money’s worth for most people who had stayed back to watch this late game.
Stan, who had been known as the ‘other swiss player’ for the longest time, has really come of age in the last 3 or 4 years and on his day, with his backhand working, he can pretty much beat any player from anywhere in the world without breaking a sweat. Kei Nishikori, on the other hand, had just come through a mammoth quarter-final against Andy Murray where he had to dig really deep to overcome the Brit in 5 sets.
Wawrinka led the head to head 3-2 against the Japanese, and each had won one match against the other at the Grand Slams. It looked like a mouth-watering line up on paper and in the humid and scorching temperatures of New York, it proved to be quite a good contest.There were plenty of Japanese supporters in the crowd, much to the delight of Nishikori, and he started the stronger of the two as Stan looked a tad off his game in the first set. Kei broke Wawrinka’s serve in the fifth game of the first set courtesy of some woeful unforced errors by the Swiss, and the Japanese held on to take the first set 6-4. The humidity was clearly getting to both the players with ice packs and towels being used frequently, and that definitely added to the clumsiness feel about this match.
On to the second set, and the rusty Stan got broken in the very first game. Something clearly wasn’t working for the Swiss, and it looked like it wasn’t long before he fixed it. The Stanimal relies on his durability, and the ability to rise up to big occasions, and he did just that by breaking back in the 4th game of the set to level at 2 games all.
The backhand had finally started to click, and the confidence seemed like it was coming back. Even though on paper Stan had better numbers than Kei, the latter had just clicked at crunch moments, and that translated to Wawrinka being a set down. He then went on to save 6 break points and broke Nishikori to grab the second set and level the match at 1 apiece. His baseline power game had become prevalent now, and the Japanese No.1 looked to be tiring just that extra bit. Wawrinka’s backhands, on the other hand, were nearing perfection.
A brief rain delay in the 4th set caused the roof to come into play. Kei looked like he had just finished a half marathon and with the conditions as gruesome, his energy levels were certainly dropping. Each player enjoyed a service break in the 4th set, and Wawrinka finally had the last laugh when he broke Kei’s serve again in the deciding 10th game to wrap up the set 6-4, and he was just one set away from his first ever US Open final against the man he has faced twice at Grand Slam finals before—Novak Djokovic. Nishikori’s unforced error count was rising by the minute, and Stan’s resurgence from the second set carried him through this one with ease in the end.
The 4th set was dominated by Wawrinka early on, winning the opening 10 points. Kei Nishikori looked battered at this point. He had absolutely no reply to the sheer brute and pace of Wawrinka’s game. With his unforced error count hitting almost 40 midway through the 4th set, he looked jaded, and it seemed a matter of when and not if for Stan. That was exactly how it panned out to be. Even though Stan did get broken again, Kei simply had no way out of this. Wawrinka had close to 40 winners at the end as compared to 45 unforced errors by the Japanese and went through to his 1st US Open final with a comprehensive 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 win.
"My game plan is to be aggressive. I knew I could fight for three, four, five hours. I want to make them suffer and that's what I did against Del Potro and today as well," Stan said after the match. If this was anything to go by, Stan certainly looks better prepared heading into Sunday’s final. Djokovic is 19-4 against Wawrinka head to head, and their last meeting at a Grand Slam final was at Roland Garros 2015, where Wawrinka won in four sets. Djokovic is aiming to win his 13th Grand Slam singles title while Wawrinka is hoping for his maiden US open and his third overall.
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