New York - Kei Nishikori stumbled into a buzzsaw in the shape of Novak Djokovic on Friday, but the Japanese star leaves the US Open pleased with a semi-final run one year after missing the tournament through injury.
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"It was very good," he said of his two weeks in Flushing Meadows. "Maybe not today, but the last couple of matches I played great tennis, beat a couple of good guys.
"I'm really happy to be in the semis again. Could have been better playing the final again, but maybe my next chance."
Nishikori made history in reaching the 2014 US Open final, but said he could hardly bring himself to watch last year's tournament as he battled a wrist injury that brought his 2017 season to a premature close.
He has slowly made his way back in 2018, gradually gaining confidence with a quarter-final run at Wimbledon and his last-four appearance here.
He dug deep for a five-set victory over Marin seventh-seeded Cilic in the quarter-finals, and may have still been feeling the effects against Djokovic.
"I think I was just tired from the last couple of matches," he said after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 defeat to Djokovic.
"I tried to give 100 percent but he was playing very solid.
"Maybe if he wasn't Novak I might have had a chance, but he was playing great tennis today. Serve, return, groundstrokes -- he was playing aggressive and I didn't have much energy to stay with him."