New York: Japan`s Kei Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final when he swept past seven-time major winner Novak Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals on Saturday.
The 10th seed braved on-court temperatures nudging the 40-degree mark to clinch a famous 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 victory over the world number one.
Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to reach the semi-finals in New York, goes on to face either 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer or Croatia`s Marin Cilic in Monday`s championship match.
His victory over Wimbledon champion Djokovic will go down as one of the sport`s greatest shocks.
The 27-year-old Serb was the 2011 champion in New York, was playing in his eighth successive US Open semi-final and bidding for a sixth final, his 15th overall at the majors.
The top seed was also looking to make his third Grand Slam final of 2014.
In contrast, prior to Saturday, the 24-year-old Nishikori`s best effort had been a run to the quarter-finals of the 2012 Australian Open.
"I don`t know what`s going on," said a breathless Nishikori.
"I was a little bit tight especially as it was my first semi-final in a Grand Slam but it`s just an amazing feeling to beat the number one player.
"It was tough conditions, it was a little heavy and humid but I guess I love to play long matches."
Nishikori said that the key was to forget about the one-sided second set.
"He started to play much better, very consistent and more aggressive. I tried to forget about the second set and tried to concentrate again." The Florida-based star also praised the work of coach Michael Chang, a Grand Slam winner with the French Open title in 1989.
"He`s been helping me a lot. We`ve been working well so that`s why I`m here."
He added: "I hope it`s big news in Japan. Even though it`s 4 o`clock in the morning I hope everybody`s up watching."
Despite playing back-to-back five-setters over eight and half hours to get to the semi-final, 10th seed Nishikori showed no signs of fatigue, breaking for 2-1 in the opener.
The world number one retrieved it immediately, but the Japanese star, pouncing on the Djokovic second serve, took the crucial next break for 4-3.
The set was wrapped up in 39 minutes on an oddly subdued but sweltering Arthur Ashe Stadium when the top seed netted a service return.
Djokovic, however, shrugged off his lethargy, breaking in the fourth and sixth games on his way to levelling the semi-final with a sixth ace securing the second set.
Nishikori, threatening to wilt in the heat, had to save four break points in an 11-minute third game of the third set which went to seven deuces.
He then conjured up a break for 5-3, courtesy of a backhand pass and a stylish forehand return winner off a 120mph first serve.
But he cracked when trying to serve out the set, his second double fault handing the break straight back to the Serb.
As the on-court temperatures shot up, Nishikori went 4/0 and 5/2 in the tiebreak and claimed the set when Djokovic went limply wide with a weary forehand.
Nishikori then turned the screw, breaking for 1-0 in the fourth set and fending off three break points in the next for 2-0.
And that was almost that.
Down and almost out, Djokovic was broken again in the ninth game when he sent a forehand long, a shot which rocketed Nishikori into the record books.