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Nishikori storms into quarterfinals

Kyodo, AP

Kei Nishikori defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in straight sets on Monday to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.

On a good day all around for Japan, Naomi Osaka reached the last eight of the women’s draw after outlasting Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in three sets at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

It is only the second time that Japan will have players in the quarterfinals of the men’s and women’s singles competitions. Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date both reached the last eight of the men’s and women’s draws, respectively, in 1995.

Nishikori, the 21st seed, surged past Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in 2 hours, 16 minutes but admitted the punishing heat had taken its toll.

“I was able to play aggressively during the key moments in the match,” said Nishikori, who reached the U.S. Open final in 2014.

“It was a hard match in this heat and my opponent also made mistakes that he doesn’t normally make. If I can keep playing like this one match at a time I will have a good chance of progressing further.”

Nishikori will play Marin Cilic of Croatia in the quarterfinals.

Osaka, the 20th seed, beat fast-rising Sabalenka 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in just over two hours to make the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time. She will face Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the last eight.

“I had a lot of chances to break her (Sabalenka) in the third set,” Osaka said. “Then she would serve these really amazing serves. A part of me knew it was coming, but at the same time I was always very unprepared.

“I’m just real glad I was able to win in the end. I was just thinking a little bit negatively of how I would feel if I lost or something.”

Osaka was knocked out in the third round in her last two appearances at the U.S. Open in heart-breaking three-setters, first to Madison Keys in 2016, when she led 5-1 in the third set, and then to Kaia Kanepi last summer.

Osaka said on court after Monday’s win that she would not have forgiven herself if she had suffered defeat this time.

“There’s people that call it ‘a bad memory’ here,” she said. “Every time I play a Grand Slam, people ask me am I going to go farther than the third round. Then in Australia I went to the fourth round, then people were like, ‘Are you going to go farther than that or is that where you’re going to stop?’

“I’ve always dreamed of playing here and going to the quarterfinals and farther. So I’m just glad I could do one of my goals.”

Looking slow and tired on a sweltering night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the No. 2-seeded Federer double-faulted 10 times, failed to convert a trio of set points and lost 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-3) in the fourth round to John Millman in a match that began Monday and concluded at nearly 1 a.m. on Tuesday.

It’s only the second time in Federer’s past 14 appearances at the U.S. Open that he’s lost before the quarterfinals. He is, after all, a five-time champion at the tournament, part of his men’s-record haul of 20 Grand Slam titles.

“I have so much respect for Roger and everything he’s done for the game. He’s been a hero of mine, and today he was definitely not at his best,” Millman said, “but, you know, I’ll take it.”

So much for that highly anticipated matchup between Federer and 13-time major champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Instead, it’ll be the 55th-ranked Millman, an Australian who had never made it past the third round at a Slam until last week, taking on No. 6 seed Djokovic.

Millman was adamant he would not be intimidated by Federer, and perhaps was helped by having spent time practicing together a few months ago ahead of the grass-court portion of this season.

Still, this was a stunner. Not simply because Federer lost — he entered the day 28-0 at the U.S. Open, and 127-1 in all Grand Slam matches, against foes below No. 50 in the ATP rankings — but how he lost. Start with this: Federer held two set points while serving for the second at 5-4, 40-15 and did not pull through. Millman knew that was the turning point.

“I felt like a bit of a deer in headlights to begin with, to be honest with you. The feet weren’t moving. Roger had me on a string. He was manipulating me around the court,” Millman said. “But I got out of a tough second set and really found my feet and started to be a little bit more aggressive.”

Hours before, Djokovic left the court for a medical timeout — the second time during the tournament he’s sought help from a doctor because of harsh weather — during what would become an otherwise straightforward 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over 68th-ranked Joao Sousa of Portugal.

“I’m not 21 anymore. That was 10 years ago. I still don’t feel old. But at the same time, there is a little biological clock that is not really working in your favor,” Djokovic told the crowd afterward. “Sometimes, you just have to survive.”

He reached the quarterfinals for an 11th consecutive appearance in New York as he bids for a third U.S. Open championship and 14th Grand Slam trophy.

In other action, Maria Sharapova lost a night match at Flushing Meadows for the first time in her lengthy career, beaten 6-4, 6-3 by No. 30 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

It’s the third consecutive appearance that ended one step short of the quarterfinals for the 31-year-old Sharapova, who had been 22-0 under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.