'I couldn't bear to watch US Open last year,' says Nishikori

Toughing it out: Kei Nishikori on his way to a US Open fourth-round victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber

Kei Nishikori could hardly bring himself to watch last year's US Open, now the 2014 runner-up is back in the quarter-finals aiming to take out Marin Cilic -- the man who beat him in the final that year.

Nishikori missed the 2017 tournament with a wrist injury that eventually needed surgery.

"At that time I didn't really want to see any matches," Nishikori recalled after a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over German Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday.

It wasn't until he was further along with his rehab and hitting balls himself again that he started paying more attention to what was happening on the tour.

After a wary return early this year, Nishikori gradually found enough consistency and confidence to put together a quarter-final run at Wimbledon.

He's revelling in his run to the last eight in New York, freed of the expectations that followed his US Open final appearance and subsequent rise to number four in the world.

"This week it's been great," he said. "Every match I've been playing really good tennis and maybe I had more pressure a few years ago.

"I wanted to stay in the top 10 every year, and that gave me a little bit of pressure. Right now I don't have any pressure, I'm enjoying playing every match and enjoying playing tennis again a little more than before."

Nishikori has made brisk progress to the quarter-finals, dropping just one set and benefitting from Gael Monfils's injury retirement in the second round.

After rolling through the first two sets against Kohlschreiber he hit a speed bump as he served for the match at 5-4 in the third.

- Hard situation -

"That was the toughest moment in the match, serving for the match at 5-4 had a 30-0 lead and he came back really strong," Nishikori said.

"It was a hard situation but I did refocus again after the service break and really played great in the last two games."

Nishikori owns an 8-6 record over Cilic, but it was the Croatian who emerged a first-time Grand Slam winner when they met in the 2014 final.

"I was really nervous," Nishikori recalled of that match.

"I wasn't nervous before the match, but as soon as I got into the court, it was different. I didn't have energy left to play five sets. I wasn't there for the match.

"Hopefully I can come back to that stage."

Cilic, seeded seventh, has had a tougher road to the last eight, rallying from two sets down and taking eight match points to beat Australian teenager Alex de Minaur in a match that lasted past 2.00 a.m. on Sunday.

He survived a few nervy moments on Monday in a 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-4 victory over 10th-seeded David Goffin of Belgium and was looking forward to another shot at Nishikori.

"We had great battles over the years and especially here at the Open we played three times," he said.

"Kei's playing great. For me the most important is to continue to play my game.

"Hopefully I can go through."