Kei Nishikori didn't let the heat get to him on Wednesday. Credit: Getty Images
The last 48 hours of Kei Nishikori's life were more epic than yours.
The good news is, now he has two days to rest.
After spending a combined eight hours and 34 minutes on court in his last two U.S. Open matches — and finishing his fourth-round match at 2:26 a.m. Tuesday — Nishikori became the first Japanese man to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open since 1918 when they were known as the U.S. Championships.
In a taut match that spilled from afternoon into early evening inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 24-year-old outlasted No. 3 seed and reigning Australian Open champ Stan Wawrinka, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4, in the quarterfinals. In Saturday's semifinals, he will play the winner of Wednesday's late encounter between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a berth in the championship match.
"I feel amazing, especially playing well and my favorite Grand Slam," Nishikori, who improved to 10-2 in five-set affairs, said in an on-court interview. "I'm very happy to come first time semis. I hope I can play 100 percent tennis next round."
After four hours and 15 minutes, Wawrinka hit a forehand into the net on the second match point. Nishikori looked relieved as he walked to the net to shake hands, but did not jump, scream or smile. He was simply too exhausted.
In his player's box, his coach, former French Open champion Michael Chang, pumped both fists in exhilaration.
"He finished really late two days ago, but it's one match out of the tournament," Wawrinka said. "So normally after two days or a little bit less you're there, you feel good, especially when you win. So I wasn't surprised because I know how is he. From outside he looks really dead, but we know on the court he can play, and he play long like what he did today. If even at the beginning he looks like he's going to die on the court, but he's there. Physically he's there."
Nishikori managed his body and his energy exceptionally well after taking four hours and 19 minutes to beat Canadian Milos Raonic in five sets in a match that ended early Tuesday morning, tying a record for the latest-ending match in Open history.
By the time Nishikori went to bed Tuesday, it was 5:30 a.m. By Wednesday afternoon, he was back out battling Wawrinka in the heat.
"My body was OK," he said. "The game was going on and I was feeling more and more. I got more confident, especially in the third. I don't know how I finished the game but I'm very happy."
Luckily, said ESPN's John McEnroe, the U.S. Open features a tiebreak in the fifth set to mercifully end things.
"[Nishikori] showed a lot of heart, both these guys," McEnroe said on air. "At least they could manage it, there was an end in sight. Please, all you other majors [that don't have fifth-set tiebreaks], change it once and for all. Guys have put out enough."
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter@AdamZagoriafor coverage throughout the U.S. Open.