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Nishikori Stuns World No. 1 Djokovic In Basel Semi-finals

Basel, Switzerland

Nishikori© Getty ImagesNishikori is the first Japanese player on the ATP World Tour to beat a World No. 1.

Kei Nishikori notched the biggest win of his career Saturday, knocking off top-ranked Novak Djokovic 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-0 in the Swiss Indoors Basel semi-finals. The win put Nishikori into the record books as the first Japanese player to defeat a World No. 1. “It feels great,” Nishikori said afterwards. “I was missing too much in the first set, but at the end of the second set, I started playing well."

Nishikori is bidding to win his second ATP World Tour title and first since his surprise triumph in Delray Beach in 2008. He finished runner-up to Ryan Sweeting in Houston in April and recently reached his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final in Shanghai (l. to Murray). He’ll play four-time champion Roger Federer in Sunday's title match. “I’ve always wanted to play Roger," revealed Nishikori. "Before the tournament, I was wishing to play him but I was on the other side of the draw and knew I would need to make the final to have a chance to play him. It will be a good challenge for me to play against him."

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Djokovic started strong, racing to a 5-1 lead in the first set, before closing it out 6-2 in 36 minutes. Nishikori settled in on serve in the second set, and broke Djokovic in the fifth game to lead 3-2. Though he lost his break advantage three games later, the 21-year-old wild card held his nerve to force a tie-break, after being within two points of defeat, trailing 4-5, 0-30.

The Serbian jumped out to an early mini-break lead, serving at 2-1, but Nishikori quickly erased it, and it proved to be a turning point. After evening the match at one set all, the match belonged to Nishikori. He converted all three of his break point chances and won 80 percent of his service points in the final set to seal the upset in two hours and 16 minutes. "The second set, he was playing great and was fighting... I have to give credit to my opponent, he was better," said Djokovic. "I didn't make the most of my opportunities."

Nishikori became just the sixth player to win a set 6-0 against Djokovic on the ATP World Tour, and first since Mardy Fish achieved the feat in a second-round loss to Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2010.

The Serb was hampered by a shoulder injury that he received treatment for during the match. He is hopeful that he will be able to play in Paris next week, after contesting his first tournament since defeating Rafael Nadal in the US Open final. "I changed the technique of my serve a little bit. I was forcing it too much because of the injury I have," admitted Djokovic. "I've carried it since the US Open and I'm still afraid something is going to happen [with my shoulder]. My rhythm with the serve is not good right now."

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Djokovic was looking to advance to his 12th final in a historic season that has seen the 24 year old win 10 titles, including the Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open and five Masters 1000 crowns. The loss was just his fourth in 71 matches this year. He has already guaranteed his place atop the year-end South African Airways ATP Rankings.

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© David G. McIntyre

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