Kei Nishikori stunned Andy Murray to reach the US Open semi-finals, holding his nerve in a breathtaking final set to move two wins away from becoming the first Asian man to capture a Grand Slam singles title.
Japanese star Nishikori clinched a dramatic 1-6 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-5 comeback triumph in a shade under four hours against the Wimbledon and Olympics winner and 2012 US Open champion.
Waiting for the 26-year-old next will be either 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro or third seed Stan Wawrinka.
“It was so exciting on the court but I tried to stay calm. It was really tough,” said Nishikori after reaching only his second Slam semi-final after his runner-up spot in New York in 2014.
“He’s a great returner, there were lots of up and downs. I didn’t start well.”
In a match that featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori prevailed for only his second win in nine matches against the world number two. His win came just three weeks after losing to Murray in the Olympic semi-finals.
Murray looked to be in control at two sets to one ahead and carving out a break point in the third game of the fourth when a loud gong-like sound burst from the malfunctioning public address system in Arthur Ashe stadium.
It thudded around the stadium and echoed eerily beneath the roof which had been closed due to rain midway through the second set.
Umpire Marija Cicak ordered the point to be replayed much to the irritation of the Briton who lost his composure and the next five games as an acrobatic Nishikori levelled the tie.
Murray refused to blame his defeat on the incident.
“Definitely I would say to 4-1 I didn’t play a good game after I got out of the change of ends, and then he held pretty comfortably the next game,” said Murray. “But after that, I don’t think so. There was a lot of time.”
The phantom noise emerged again later in the set and Murray’s mood was not helped when a startled butterfly flew around the court, causing great merriment when it obstinately clung to the net.