Japanese stars create incredible piece of tennis history at US Open

Naomi Osaka 2018 US Open

Still in search of her first Grand Slam title, the 14th-seeded Keys reached her third semifinal in the past five majors by using her big-strike game built on serves and forehands to overpower No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-4, 6-3 at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday night.

Keys, who is also an Australian and French Open semifinalist, will face Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka for a spot in the decider.

In 2017, she was beaten by Sloane Stephens in the U.S. Open final; Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were the other semifinalists, making it the first time in 36 years that the last four women in NY represented the host country.

It has already been a successful return to Flushing Meadows for Nishikori who missed the U.S. Open a year ago with a wrist injury that saw his ranking plunge and put him on the comeback trail that included playing Challenger-level tournaments.

Keys made it all the way through to the final past year before she was stopped by fellow American Sloane Stephens at Flushing Meadows.

Serena Williams was a bit shaky at the start of her US Open semifinal.

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"It really means a lot", said Osaka whose post-match, on-court interview endeared her further to a growing legion of fans.

It was a case of sweet revenge for Kei Nishikori as he outlasted Marin Cilic on Wednesday, four years after losing to the Croatian player in the final of the US Open.

Keys and Suarez Navarro met three times previously, with Keys winning all three matches in three sets.

The second set looked to be going the same way when the Croat broke again in game six for a 4-2 lead, but Nishikori dug in and hit straight back, winning the next three games to level the match. She's lost only one set in the tournament to this point.

Cilic has reached two Grand Slam finals in the past 18 months and was eager to make up for the disappointment of a second-round exit at Wimbledon. She's been playing really well for actually a long time. "I still haven't totally processed this match". Osaka said she has tried to keep this tournament business-like as she navigates her way through the draw, but her triumph in NY is not just about advancing her career.

"Overall, he's just really nice and positive and bubbly and stuff", Osaka said. It was odd enough to see a player be allowed to do that during, instead of after, a set, but even odder for it to happen after an even number of games, rather than at an odd-game changeover.

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