Saturday, September 6, 2014

U.S. Open Day 13: Nishikori, Cilic score major upsets

    Men's semifinals -- Everyone who predicted a Kei Nishikori-Marin Cilic final at the beginning of the tournament, please stand up.
   For the first time since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 Australian Open, a major final will be played without Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal.
   Nishikori, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 150 pounds (68 kilograms), became the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final. Seeded 10th, he shocked the top-ranked Djokovic 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in sweltering heat and humidity.
   Even though Nishikori was coming off two marathons, he seemed fresher than Djokovic, who got married shortly after winning Wimbledon in July and lost early in his two U.S. Open tuneup tournaments.
   Nishikori had a cyst removed from the bottom of his right foot last month and hadn't played in a tournament since Aug. 1. He had his right foot re-wrapped during his fourth-round and quarterfinal battles at Flushing Meadows.
   Cilic, seeded 14th, also advanced to his first major final. The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Croat overpowered the second-seeded Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 for his first victory over the Swiss star in six career matches. 
   Cilic blasted serves at up to 132 mph (213 kph) and finished with 13 aces, including three straight in the final game.
   Notable --  Fourth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina of Russia won their second Grand Slam women's doubles title, rallying from a set and a break down to beat unseeded Martina Hingis of Switzerland and Flavia Pennetta of Italy 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
   Hingis, an International Tennis Hall of Famer who will turn 34 on Sept. 30, launched a doubles comeback last year. She was playing in her first major final since winning the 2002 Australian Open women's doubles title with Anna Kournikova.
   Hingis has won 15 Grand Slam titles (five in singles, nine in women's doubles and one in mixed doubles).     
   Women's final matchup (seedings in parentheses) -- Serena Williams (1) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (10), Sunday at 1:30 p.m. PDT on CBS. Williams leads the head-to-head series 8-1 with five straight victories. However, the players' two meetings last month were close. Williams won 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the Montreal quarterfinals and 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the Cincinnati semifinals.
   Wozniacki said she stayed in bed between the quarterfinals and semifinals because of a viral illness, but she seemed fine during her win over Peng Shuai in the semis. Wozniacki led 7-6 (1), 4-3 when Peng retired with heat exhaustion and leg cramps.
   Williams quit her second-round doubles match at Wimbledon on July 1 with what the WTA called a viral illness.
   U.S. report -- All three Americans in the junior singles semifinals lost: sixth-seeded Francis Tiafoe in the boys field, and qualifier Caroline Dolehide and wild card Katerina Stewart on the girls side.
   Tiafoe, perhaps the United States' top male hope, had two match points in his 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (6) loss to fifth-seeded Quentin Halys of France.
   Northern California connection -- Top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan will play 11th-seeded Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain in the men's doubles final on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. PDT on ESPN2. The Bryans, who led Stanford to NCAA titles in their two years there (1997-98), seek their fifth U.S. Open title and 100th overall.
   Nishikori played in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose three times, losing in the second round in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Brad Gilbert of San Rafael coached Nishikori in 2011.
   Fast facts -- Nishikori lost to qualifier Daniel Evans of Great Britain in straight sets in the first round of last year's U.S. Open. Evans was coming off a runner-up finish in the Aptos Challenger, failing to convert a championship point against former Stanford star Bradley Klahn.
   Cilic missed last year's U.S. Open while serving a four-month doping suspension. He said he ingested a stimulant accidentally in a glucose tablet.
   Quote -- Nishikori, on having the cyst removed: "I didn't even know if I should come to New York, so I wasn't expecting (anything), actually."

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