Japan’s Kei Nishikori avenged his loss to Marin Cilic in last year’s US Open final, defeating the Croatian 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to reach the ATP and WTA Washington Open final.
The 25-year-old Asian number one rallied to oust the reigning US Open champion and advanced to Sunday’s title match against US eighth seed John Isner, who fired 31 aces and saved three match points to edge American Steve Johnson 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9).
Fifth-ranked Nishikori improved to 6-3 all-time against Cilic in their first meeting since he missed a chance to become the first Asian man to win a Grand Slam title by losing last year’s Flushing Meadows final.
“It’s great to have revenge,” Nishikori said. “Today I was playing very much better against Cilic. It was important to play well. Hopefully I will keep it going.”
Isner beat Nishikori four months ago in a Miami quarter-final in their only prior meeting.
“Everything sort of clicked for me that day,” Isner said. “I played extremely well. That was my best match of the year. I’m probably going to have to bring that again tomorrow.”
Isner seeks his 11th career ATP title after winning last week in Atlanta while Nishikori seeks his 10th career title after crowns at Memphis and Barcelona this year.
“It was a great win for me,” Nishikori said. “Overall, I’m playing well, very aggressive. The last two sets I was very happy with my tennis.”
Despite the defeat, eighth-ranked Cilic felt the week was a solid start on the path to defending his US Open crown.
“Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the way I was playing,” Cilic said. “Definitely it has given me some vision of what I’m going to focus on the next days and weeks.
“In my next match I will try and be more focused on my serve, to be more deadly.”
– Stephens makes first final –
On the women’s side, American Sloane Stephens reached her first WTA career final by eliminating Australian second seed Samantha Stosur 7-6 (7/4), 6-0. She will play for the title against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who advanced 4-6, 6-3 when top-seeded compatriot Ekaterina Makarova retired with a right leg injury.
Stephens ended her long wait in her 84th WTA tournament, having been the world’s highest-ranked player without a finals appearance at 35th, six prior semi-final losses including the 2013 Australian Open.
“Finally, the long-awaited final,” Stephens said. “I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel. It’s like OK, what now? Now people can stop talking about me — I’m really happy to do it.”
Cilic won the first set in 35 minutes but Nishikori roared back in the second to force a third. After double-faulting away a break in the eighth game, Nishikori broke for a 5-4 lead and held for the triumph.
“I started to hit a little more aggressively in the second set,” Nishikori said. “I had to change mentally a little bit. The third set he came back and I had to concentrate again.”
Isner, the 2007 and 2012 Washington runner-up, and Johnson exchanged lone breaks over the first two sets. In the tie-breaker, Johnson missed a forehand on his first match point and Isner fired the first of four consecutive aces to save the second. The drama turned when Isner charged the net and hit a backhand volley winner, then closed the match with a service winner.
“My serve bailed me out,” Isner said. “I’m so excited to be back in the final. Hopefully it’ll be third time lucky.” – Agence France-Presse