Stan Wawrinka faces Kei Nishikori, the conqueror of Andy Murray, in the second of the US Open semifinals today (4.30pm ET Friday, but dependent on the finishing time of the first semifinal).
This one is a bit of a shocker. It is not so much seeing Wawrinka reach the finals at yet another major, something he has been doing with a minor level of consistency over the last two years, but the fact that Nishikori (pictured) is his opponent. For many bettors and avid tennis fans who have been following the sport since Wimbledon, that was a spot that was surely going to go to the second ranked player in the world, Andy Murray.
Murray entered the US Open having won both Wimbledon and the 2016 Summer Olympics. He was playing some of the best tennis of his career. A win would have even led to the Scotsman supplanting Novak Djokovic as top ranked in the world. But Nishikori had no issue bursting that bubble as he shocked Murray in five sets and earned his own place in the semifinals for the second time in the last three years.
This was easily Nishikori’s most impressive win. It followed three four-set victories, one each against Benjamin Becker, Karen Khachanov and Nicholas Mahut, and then a straight sets win over Ivo Karlovic to reach the quarterfinals. The match wasn’t easy as Nishikori lost the first set 6-1 as it looked like Murray would continue his roll. The two split the next two sets before Nishikori got his own 6-1 set victory and finally got the one service break he needed to win the fifth and deciding set 7-5.
Nishikori’s win opened up the draw for Djokovic, who very well may have fallen victim to Murray given their recent past and the Scotsman’s recent play. However, it also opens up the door for a guy like Wawrinka, who is making his third US Open semifinal appearance, his most of any major.
One of the best players in the world these days not named Djokovic, Murray, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, Wawrinka navigated through his draw with some ups and downs. He took down Fernando Verdasco and Alessando Giannessi in straight sets to open his US Open. He then needed to come back from two sets to one down, in a brutal match that needed two tie breaks and spanned over four hours against the qualifier Daniel Evans. He needed four sets against Iilya Marchenko and again against Olympic silver medalist Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinals.
This will be the fifth time Nishikori and Wawrinka are meeting head-to-head with the two-time major winning Swissman leading three matches to two. However, the last time they met on hard courts, in the 2014 US Open men’s semifinal, it was Nishikori who walked away with the five-set victory. Wawrinka will no doubt be hoping to avoid a repeat result this year.
In order to do so, Wawrinka will have to maintain a firm grip on his serve as Nishikori has broken serve 30 times in the US Open, which is better than anyone remaining in the field. He has played top notch tennis and while he had the more grueling semifinal, both will come into this with equal rest time and similar total court time.
Our Preview’s Stan Wawrinka vs Kei Nishikori Betting Picks
Being aggressive is going to be the key here for both men as well as playing smart tennis. The two don’t know each other that well on the court so that US Open semifinal could serve as the barometer for how they attack offensively and conversely how they respond defensively. It is Wawrinka’s power against Nishikori’s technical savvy and it’s anyone’s guess who is headed to the finals to play either Djokovic or the upstart Gael Monfils.
The USA sportsbooks’ betting odds favor Nishikori in this spot but I’m going to be the contrarian and pick Wawrinka for this preview. Yes, Nishikori did get a huge confidence boosting win against the man who quite possibly was playing the best tennis in the world as of late, but it was grueling and one has to wonder how much that took out of him. So here are the betting picks: