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Five-set trend continues with a win by Nishikori, who gets Djokovic next at U.S. Open Tennis

Kei Nishikori hits a return to Mackenzie McDonald during their match on the fourth day of the US Open. EPA-EFE/JOHN G. MABANGLO

By Ricky Dimon

There were seven five-setters in the top half of the men’s singles draw at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. When those same players took the court on Thursday, three more matches went the distance.

One of them involved Kei Nishikori, who outlasted Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 6-3 in an evening match on Court 17.

It’s one of those courts generally occupied by fans with general admission tickets who are eager to get as close to the action as possible and are unafraid to show their enthusiasm. Similar to the old, intimate Grandstand, Court 17 certainly delivered a great atmosphere in Nishikori vs. McDonald–especially in the fifth set. Although most of the cheering was for the American, it kept both players going amidst the physical and mental struggle of a five-setter.

Despite dropping the third and fourth sets and also trailing by a break early in the fifth, Nishikori righted the ship to eventually clinch victory after three hours and 57 minutes.

The Japanese veteran’s reward is a showdown with world No. 1 and familiar foe Novak Djokovic. Their head-to-head series stands at a dominant 17-2 in Djokovic’s favor after the Serb most recently dominated 6-2, 6-0 at the Tokyo Olympics. Nishikori has lost 16 in a row since upsetting Djokovic in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals.

Novak Djokovic gestures to the crowd after defeating Tallon Greikspoor in their match on the fourth day of the US Open. EPA-EFE/PETER FOLEY

“I actually do…in my phone,” Djokovic joked when asked if he has Nishikori’s number, before continuing, “I don’t have anyone’s number on the court until I win.

“We played many times; I have a very good score against him. I lost I think last time here in New York in the semis in 2014. Historically I think his most successful Grand Slam is here. He’s one of the quickest and most-talented players that I’ve seen in my lifetime–in my career. But I know his game well. We played in the Olympic Games. I know [what to expect]. I look forward to a good challenge.”

“Obviously I love the challenge,” Nishikori commented. “It’s not something I love to play all the time because, I mean, obviously he’s the toughest opponent. I (would) rather have someone ranked lower. Even though I have a bad record, I always try to be positive.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a tough one, but I (will) do my best.”

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.