New York - Kei Nishikori could hardly bring himself to watch
last year's US Open, now the 2014 runner-up is back in the quarter-finals
aiming to take out Marin Cilic - the man who beat him in the final that year.
Nishikori missed the 2017 tournament with a wrist injury
that eventually needed surgery.
"At that time I didn't really want to see any
matches," Nishikori recalled after a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over German
Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday.
It wasn't until he was further along with his rehab and
hitting balls himself again that he started paying more attention to what was
happening on the tour.
After a wary return early this year, Nishikori gradually
found enough consistency and confidence to put together a quarter-final run at
He's revelling in his run to the last eight in New York,
freed of the expectations that followed his US Open final appearance and
subsequent rise to number four in the world.
"This week it's been great," he said. "Every
match I've been playing really good tennis and maybe I had more pressure a few
"I wanted to stay in the top 10 every year, and that
gave me a little bit of pressure. Right now I don't have any pressure, I'm
enjoying playing every match and enjoying playing tennis again a little more
Nishikori has made brisk progress to the quarter-finals,
dropping just one set and benefitting from Gael Monfils's injury retirement in
the second round.
After rolling through the first two sets against
Kohlschreiber he hit a speed bump as he served for the match at 5-4 in the
"That was the toughest moment in the match, serving for
the match at 5-4 had a 30-0 lead and he came back really strong,"
"It was a hard situation but I did refocus again after
the service break and really played great in the last two games."
Nishikori owns an 8-6 record over Cilic, but it was the
Croatian who emerged a first-time Grand Slam winner when they met in the 2014
"I was really nervous," Nishikori recalled of that
"I wasn't nervous before the match, but as soon as I got
into the court, it was different. I didn't have energy left to play five sets.
I wasn't there for the match.
"Hopefully I can come back to that stage."
Cilic, seeded seventh, has had a tougher road to the last
eight, rallying from two sets down and taking eight match points to beat
Australian teenager Alex de Minaur in a match that lasted past 02:00 on
He survived a few nervy moments on Monday in a 7-6 (8/6),
6-2, 6-4 victory over 10th-seeded David Goffin of Belgium and was looking
forward to another shot at Nishikori.
"We had great battles over the years and especially
here at the Open we played three times," he said.
"Kei's playing great. For me the most important is to
continue to play my game.
"Hopefully I can go through."