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Nishikori wins epic third set, heads to finals

By: Charlie Wright

Kei Nishikori was expected to get to the Citi Open finals and has done just that after beating Marin Cilic in a three-set battle.

Kei Nishikori was expected to get to the Citi Open finals and has done just that after beating Marin Cilic in a three-set battle.

Washington D.C. – A matchup between two players ranked in the top ten drew quite the crowd on Saturday, but they were left disappointed for two sets. Then came an incredible third set, with No. 5 Kei Nishikori outdueling No. 8 Marin Cilic (6-3), 6-1 6-4 to reach the final round of the Citi Open.

The last time these two met was the finals of last year’s U.S. Open. Cilic took the title, and picked up where he left off in the first set.

The big Croatian’s serve whizzed by Nishikori time and again. He finished with five of his nine aces in the frame. Nishikori was left lunging most of the time, and the serves he managed to return were promptly put away by Cilic.

Nishikori lost his own serve in the second game to put himself in a quick 2-0 hole. He kept Cilic on his heels, but missed several easy backhand finishes. The diminutive player from Japan recovered late in the set, winning his serve the rest of the way, but couldn’t stop Cilic.

“He was very aggressive and hitting good serves,” Nishikori said.

The pair switched roles in the second, with Nishikori cruising to an easy victory. He won his serve then quickly broke Cilic, jumping out to a 2-0 lead. The third game was tight, with Nishikori needing an ace to force deuce, but still prevailed. He broke Cilic again in the fourth and then won his serve with several long rallies to go up 5-0.

“Kei played really well to break me and that changed the momentum,” Cilic said.

Cilic managed to win his next serve, but Nishikori did the same to win the set. The second featured just three aces total, but Nishikori seemed to win each grueling rally with shots just out of Cilic’s reach.

Nishikori broke Cilic to open the third set, and then the two stayed on serve until the eighth game. Nishikori struggled to get his first serve in, and CIlic took advantage with a couple huge forehand returns. The tiring Nishikori double faulted and lost the game to knot the score at 4-4.

Despite the error, Nishikori rose up and broke CIlic’s serve, and then won the match in the next game.

“The third was high quality tennis, a few points decided it,” Cilic said.

Nishikori will take on the winner of the match between John Isner and Steve Johnson, to be played later tonight. For now, he can relax and enjoy a victory over a foe that had defeated him in the past.

“We had the battle last year at the US open, [it] is good revenge,” Nishikori said. “I hope I can keep going tomorrow.”

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Charlie Wright

Staff Writer
Charlie is a lifelong sports fan who grew up cheering for hometown teams. He developed a passion for writing in high school and chose to pursue the profession in college. Charlie followed most of his family to the University of Maryland, where he is pursuing a degree in journalism. He plans to enter the sports journalism field after graduation, hopefully covering a local team.

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