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Nishikori outlasts Cilic, joins Osaka in US Open semifinals

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kei Nishikori rallied to outlast Marin Cilic on Wednesday at the U.S. Open, giving Japan a men’s and women’s semifinalist at the same Grand Slam for the first time, according to the ATP Tour.

Nishikori won the rematch of the 2014 final with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 victory in a match that lasted 4 hours, 8 minutes.

In the match before Nishikori’s, Naomi Osaka moved into her first Grand Slam semifinal by routing Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-1.

Only once in the professional era that began in 1968 had Japan had a men’s and women’s player in the quarterfinals at the same tournament. That was at Wimbledon in 1995, and both Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date lost in that round.

The seventh-seeded Cilic won the 2014 final in straight sets for his only career major title. Nishikori said this week that he was nervous once that match began, but this one was nothing like that day.

Instead, it resembled their 2010 second-round match in Flushing Meadows, when Nishikori rallied to win in five sets in 4:59, the fifth-longest men’s singles match by time in U.S. Open history.

Each man blew chances to gain control and perhaps have a much quicker ending to a match that had wild swings of momentum.

Cilic appeared to be coasting after taking the first set and opening a 4-2 lead in the second. The Croatian then had the lead in the third-set tiebreaker until double-faulting on consecutive serves.

After Cilic evened the match by taking the fourth following a 10-minute break for heat, Nishikori was on the verge with running away with the fifth, holding a break point for a 5-1 lead. Instead, Cilic held and then broke Nishikori on his way to evening the set at 4-all, but then Nishikori took the final two games.

The No. 21 seed continued his strong season after returning from a wrist injury that forced him to miss the U.S. Open last year and will play either No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic or unseeded John Millman on Friday.

“I wish I don’t go to five sets every time,” Nishikori said.

Osaka had it much easier, continuing what’s been a largely dominant run through the draw by winning in just 57 minutes, the third time in her five matches she didn’t even have to play an hour.

The No. 20 seed moved from Japan to New York at age 3, and her deepest major run is coming at the same tournament she first visited as a child.

“Well, it definitely means a lot for me, and I always thought if I were to win a Grand Slam, the first one I’d want to win is the US Open, because I have grown up here and, like, then my grandparents can come and watch,” she said. “I think it would be really cool.”

She raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set and then 4-0 in the second against the shaky Tsurenko, who finished with more unforced errors than points in her first major quarterfinal.

Osaka will face either 14th-seeded Madison Keys or No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro in the first major semifinal appearance for a Japanese woman since Date reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1996.

The 20-year-old said she was nervous, claiming to be “freaking out inside” — though it certainly never showed.

“Just like my entire body was shaking, so I’m really glad I was able to play well today,” she said.

She won 59 points to just 28 for the unseeded Ukrainian, who knocked off No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

But Tsurenko said she was sick Wednesday, waking up with a sore throat and not breathing well.

“Unfortunately during this tournament I had many issues with my health, and today was not my day obviously. I was not feeling well,” she said.

Osaka had consecutive 50-minute matches earlier in the tournament, including a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing of Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the third round.

She was finally tested in the round of 16, edging past No. 26 Aryna Sabalenka 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in a little more than 2 hours, but she was back in complete control against Tsurenko, winning 20 of 22 points (91 percent) on her first serve.

Tsurenko labored in the heat during her fourth-round victory over Marketa Vondrousova, having her temperature and blood checked during a medical timeout in the first set and nearly quitting when she trailed early in the second. She recovered to win in three sets, with her opponent accusing her of acting after the match.

It was another hot afternoon Wednesday, with temperatures in the high-80s (30s Celsius) but feeling some 10 degrees hotter with the humidity.

Tsurenko didn’t appear bothered by the conditions, but whether it was her health or just first-time jitters, she was off from the minute she stepped onto Arthur Ashe Stadium.

She pushed some balls a few feet past the baseline, often failing to make Osaka do anything special to win a point and finishing with 31 unforced errors.

“I hate matches like this,” Tsurenko said. “I didn’t want to show this kind of game in front of this big crowd, but unfortunately I’m just not able to play now.”

Zverev beats Djokovic to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Alexander Zverev upset Novak Djokovic to claim the biggest title of his career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev became the youngest champion of the season-ending event since Djokovic claimed the first of his five titles a decade ago, and the first from Germany since 1995.

Top-ranked Djokovic was attempting to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles but followed the same path as the Swiss great, who lost to Zverev in the semifinals at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic’s serve hadn’t been broken all tournament until the final. Zverev did it once in the first set and three times in the second, completing the victory with a spectacular backhand winner up the line.

Both players began the match in the same form that had seen them earn straight-sets semifinal victories a day earlier, with few points going against the server.

It was Djokovic, who had lost just two of his previous 37 matches, who began to feel the pressure as consecutive forehand errors gave Zverev a chance to serve out the opening set at 5-4.

Fans gave Zverev a huge ovation as he stepped up to serve, and it appeared to inspire him. Three straight aces brought up three set points, the second of which he took when Djokovic sent another forehand long.

Zverev even began to outlast Djokovic in longer rallies, an area of the game the 14-time Grand Slam champion usually dominates. A 26-shot duel brought up another break point in the opening game of the second set and, although Djokovic saved it, Zverev won another lengthy exchange moments later with a forehand winner to go 1-0 up.

With the biggest win of his career in sight, Zverev began to show some nerves. Although he is the only active player outside of the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to possess three or more Masters titles, the young German has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Two double faults and two backhand errors gifted Djokovic an immediate break back, but Zverev quickly refocused to win a 28-shot rally on his way to breaking in the following game.

From there he remained solid on serve, before ending with a flourish. Having been pushed wide, a backhand winner on the run drifted past the helpless Djokovic.

Zverev sunk to the ground in tears as Djokovic sportingly crossed the net to embrace the player who will now be considered among the favorites to end the Serb’s run of two consecutive Grand Slam victories in Australia in two months’ time.

Earlier, American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

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LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.