The 10 best U.S. Open men’s matches this century: Nishikori vs Wawrinka, quarterfinals, 2014
The U.S. Open has been the stage for some of the best men’s singles matches ever seen, and with the dawn of a new decade, now seems like a good time to cast our gaze back and review the best encounters in recent memory.
Here tennishead relives a classic men’s U.S. Open match from the 21st century.
Kei Nishikori vs Stan Wawrinka, quarterfinals, 2014
One of only two U.S. Opens not won by a member of the “Big Four” between 2004 and 2019, the 2014 event nonetheless delivered a great deal of awesome tennis, and no match was superior to the attritional quarterfinal clash between the 10th and 3rd seeds. At 4 hours, 15 minutes, it surpassed even Nishikori-Raonic for intensity – and that’s saying something given the match finished at 2.26am the day before, equalling the record for the tournament’s latest finish.
Having had to come back from the brink against Raonic, Nishikori was forced to do the same here as Australian Open champ Wawrinka took an exciting first set 6-3, his forceful ground strokes and smooth rhythm holding sway. Battling fatigue and a player in awe-inspiring form, the Japanese counterpuncher simply kept grinding, compelling Stan to hit an extra shot. And his bulldog spirit paid off as he edged out the second set 7-5.
Nishikori was bidding to become the first Japanese man to make a semifinal of the U.S. Open but he was playing with the ease and good cheer of a teenager on the local circuit. Wawrinka, too, was enjoying himself, his drilled backhand winner up the line at 2-2 in the third the finest of the match so far. Nishikori, though, got the first bite of the cherry as he broke for a 4-2 lead. Then, after failing to convert set point on Wawrinka’s serve at 5-2, he stepped up to serve for the set – only for a series of disastrous errors to let Wawrinka in the back door. It was a mark of the 24-year-old’s equanimity that he put this frustration behind him to win a spectacular tie break, one in which he saved set point with a ridiculous down-the-line winner at 6-7.
There had been two tie breaks in the back-breaking battle with Raonic, so for the sake of symmetry, there had to be two here: the fourth-set breaker was as fascinating as the last, Wawrinka moving 4-0 ahead only for Nishikori to level at 4-4 before the Swiss closed it out. In the fifth, Wawrinka carved out a break point opportunity in the fifth game but Nishikori’s resolve held firm, and when he took a 5-4 lead with a sly drop shot a few games later, you could almost sense Wawrinka’s belief petering out. And his conservatism cost him in the next game as Nishikori secured his second straight five-set win, emerging 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 to set up a mouthwatering semifinal with Novak Djokovic.
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