U.S. Open: Djokovic ends Millman's run to reach semis
Duo of Nishikori, Osaka 1st from Japan to make semifinals at same Grand Slam
Novak Djokovic put aside all of it, from his opponent's unheard-of, middle-of-a-set chance to change out of sweat-soaked clothes and shoes, to consecutive time violations because he let the serve clock expire, to the 16 break points he wasted.
Djokovic moved a step closer to a third championship at Flushing Meadows and 14th Grand Slam title overall by eliminating Millman 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to get to the tournament's semifinals for an 11th appearance in a row. He sat out last year because of an injured right elbow.
The No. 6-seeded Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in July, had been drawn to face Federer in the quarterfinals. But Millman scuttled that showdown by stunning the 20-time Grand Slam champ in four sets in the fourth round on a hot and humid evening that Federer said sapped his energy and made it hard to breathe.
Watch Djokovic cruise past Millman:
This night was cooler, as the temperature dipped into the 70s, but the humidity was above 80 per cent, so with Millman drenched, he sought permission for a wardrobe change at 2-all in the second set. It was odd enough to see a player be allowed to do that during, instead of after, a set, but even odder for it to happen after an even number of games, rather than at an odd-game changeover.
"I was struggling. He was struggling. We were all sweating. Changing a lot of T-shirts, shorts," said Djokovic, who will face 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori on Friday. "Just trying to find a way to hang in there."
When Millman apologized for leaving the court at that juncture, Djokovic replied, "I'm fine to have a little rest," then sat down on his sideline bench without a shirt on and cooled off.
Nishikori, Osaka make history
Nishikori rallied to outlast Marin Cilic, giving Japan a men's and women's semifinalist at the same Grand Slam for the first time in the professional era.
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 on Wednesday in the U.S. Open quarter-finals.
"It's good to have, you know, home support outside of Japan," he said. "Yeah, it's great news we're both in the semis."
Only once in the professional era that began in 1968 had Japan had a men's and women's player in the quarter-finals at the same tournament. That was at Wimbledon in 1995, and both Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date lost in that round.
Watch Nishikori outlast Cilic:
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.
Osaka wraps things up quickly
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 quarter-final.
Keys eases into semis
Osaka will face 14th-seeded Madison Keys in the first major semifinal appearance for a Japanese woman since Date reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1996.
Keys reached the semifinals at her second consecutive U.S. Open after beating No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4, 6-3.
Keys, a 23-year-old American who is seeded No. 14, overwhelmed Suarez Navarro with her powerful serve and groundstrokes, building a 22-10 edge in winners.
Watch Keys reach another Grand Slam semi:
Keys faced only two break points, one while serving for the victory in the final game, and saved both.
She has made it to the final four at three of the past five Grand Slam tournaments but is still seeking her first major championship.
Keys was the runner-up to Sloane Stephens at the U.S. Open in 2017, then lost to Stephens in the French Open semifinals this year.
The 20-year-old Osaka 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.
Osaka had consecutive 50-minute matches earlier in the tournament, including a 6-0, 6-0 thrashing of Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the third round.
It was another hot afternoon Wednesday, with temperatures in the high-80s (30s Celsius) but feeling some 10 degrees hotter with the humidity.