Four years ago, Kei Nishikori upset Novak Djokovic in four sets to reach his first grand slam final.
He couldn’t do the same Friday night.
The Japanese world No. 21 was aiming to join countrywoman Naomi Osaka in the U.S Open finals, but lost to Djokovic in a straightforward match: 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Both players missed the 2017 U.S. Open with injuries, but were on the cusp of returning to the finals.
Nishikori went toe-to-toe with Djokovic, but could not find an answer for the No. 6 seed. He had 22 winners, but more than double the number of unforced errors – 51.
Absolutely superb backhand winner down the line from @djokernole!
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2018
Djokovic finally sealed the nearly two-and-a-half hour match with an outstretched winner down the line – his 16th of the match to 29 unforced errors.
The two-time U.S. Open champion pressured Nishikori in almost all of his service games, earning 17 break points. Djokovic converted on four of them, breaking once in each of the first two sets and twice in the third, while Nishikori couldn’t capitalize on the two that he earned.
Djokovic lost to Del Potro the last time they played at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Del Potro sent him home in the first round and Djokovic left the court in tears, the beginning of his injury and motivation struggles that lasted from the 2016 French Open until the 2018 season.
On Sunday, it’ll be their first meeting of 2018 and the first in a grand slam final with Del Potro playing for his second U.S. Open and second overall and Djokovic playing for this third and fourteenth respectively.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Dan Wetzel: Eagles borrowed play from Patriots’ playbook in triumphant return
• Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad a hit, according to commercial analyst
• Top 5 college games to watch this weekend
• Chris Mannix: Ultimate underdog Steve Nash gets HOF spotlight