Federer, Djokovic both lose in US Open semifinals

Updated: 2014-09-07 07:47


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Federer, Djokovic both lose in US Open semifinals
Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates defeating Gael Monfils of France in the fifth set of their quarter-final men's singles match at the 2014 US Open tennis tournament in New York, Sept 4, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

NEW YORK - Roger Federer could not pull off another big escape at the US Open, losing 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals Saturday against Croatia's Marin Cilic.

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It was the second significant surprise of the day, coming after Novak Djokovic was beaten 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 by Japan's Kei Nishikori, who became the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final.

Instead of the No. 1-seeded Djokovic against the No. 2-seeded Federer,  who have combined to win 24 major championships in Monday's final, it will be No. 10 Nishikori against No. 14 Cilic, neither of whom has ever appeared in a Grand Slam title match.

"That's going to be a sensational day for both of us,'' said Cilic, who at 25 is a year older than Nishikori.

For the first time in nearly a decade since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open in January 2005,  a men's final at a major tournament will be contested without at least one of Federer, Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, the 2013 US Open champion who did not attempt to defend his title because of a right wrist injury.

That trio won 34 of the past 38 Grand Slam trophies, including two months ago at Wimbledon, when Djokovic edged Federer in a five-set final.

In the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows on Thursday night, Federer dropped the first two sets against 20th-seeded Gael Monfils and wound up facing two match points, but managed to sneak away with a victory. There would be no such comeback this time against Cilic, who was forced to sit out last year's US Open while serving a doping suspension.

Cilic had only played one previous major semifinal, at the 2010 Australian Open, while this was Federer's 36th. And Cilic came into the day with an 0-5 head-to-head record. But on this particular day, Federer never was able to solve the big serves and substantial wingspan of his 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) opponent.

Cilic hit serves at up to 132 mph (213 kph) and finished with 13 aces, including three in the final game. That he would serve effectively was no surprise. What truly stood out, though, was the way Cilic managed to hang with Federer in exchanges from the baseline.

The start of Federer-Cilic was delayed for about an hour because of rain; the whole match only took 1 hour, 45 minutes, making it the fourth-fastest Grand Slam loss in Federer's long and distinguished career.

"Just an amazing day for me. I feel amazing,'' Cilic said. "To be able to play like this, I never dreamed of.''

Cilic is the first man from Croatia to get this far at a major since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001.

That's nothing compared to Japan's wait.

As it is, Nishikori was the first man from his country to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 1933. Now he made it a step further.

"Very happy to make history,'' Nishikori said.

He weaved his way through a pair of five-setters totaling more than 8 1/2 hours in the previous two rounds beating No. 5 Milos Raonic, then No. 3 Stan Wawrinka yet appeared to be much more lively than Djokovic, a guy widely considered as fit as they come in men's tennis these days.

"Just wasn't myself,'' Djokovic said.