Defending champion Novak Djokovic will take on third seed Stan Wawrinka in the US Open final after both men won semi-finals in punishing conditions.
Djokovic beat 10th seed Gael Monfils 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-2 in New York, with the Frenchman adopting unusual tactics to try and counter the world number one.
Djokovic will attempt to win his third US Open and 13th Grand Slam title on Sunday, while Wawrinka – who beat Djokovic in last year’s French Open final – is going for a third major victory and first at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic had spent only six hours and 24 minutes on court in reaching the semi-finals, thanks in part to one walkover and two retirements, and he was within sight of another swift contest against Monfils.
Djokovic’s fortunes took a nosedive, first as he called for treatment to his left shoulder and then as three break-back points slipped by, and with them the set, prompting him to rip his shirt in frustration.
It was in that third set that Djokovic, who led 2-0 with a break at one point, got so frustrated that he ripped his shirt, having taken a love-40 lead on Monfils’ serve as the Frenchman tried to serve out the set. Djokovic grabbed at his collar, pulling hard and exposing part of his chest. He played the next point like that, lost it – and, in turn, the set. Djokovic changed shirts.as the two men headed for set four
Monfils, 30, was back in the match but he was hardly fizzing with energy, calling for the trainer early in the fourth set, bending double at every opportunity and even drinking a Coca-Cola at one changeover
Both players were booed at one point or another, Monfils in the second set for an apparent lack of effort and Djokovic – later – for arguing with chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore.
Djokovic handed another break of serve straight back with a double fault, but after a second medical timeout – this time for his right shoulder – the two-time champion clinched victory with a winner on match point that flew past an almost stationary Monfils.
“The conditions were different from most of the days during the tournament but it was the same for both players,” said Djokovic.
“We expected it – we heard it would be warm and humid.” He added.
Monfils went on to explain that he had a particular style and approach to the match that he called “not academic.”
“That’s the way he plays,” Djokovic said of Monfils. “The way he plays always. He loves to come up with a variety in his game, and the defensive shots. He loves long rallies.”
Monfils said: “At the beginning I think Novak has been good, I didn’t serve great, it was very quick 5-0 and I got to change a little bit. That’s a little bit tough because for sure people aren’t ready to see that.
“But why would I stay 6-0 and not change anything? Definitely, I tried to get in his head and create something new for him to see. To be in the final is crazy, he added.
Nishikori had beaten Wawrinka on his way to reaching the final two years ago.
Nishikori looked sharper for the best part of two sets but was pegged back by Wawrinka with a break at the end of the second.
The Japanese player appeared to be suffering for his four-hour quarter-final win over Andy Murray but he recovered from 4-1 down in the third to level, with play interrupted briefly as rain forced the roof to be closed.
There was one final push from Nishikori, who broke back when Wawrinka played a woeful service game at 3-2, but the former French and Australian Open champion reeled off another three games in a row to clinch victory.
“That is when I put my game to be aggressive. To be in the final is something crazy.” He added.