Tokyo: Two-time champion Kei Nishikori swatted aside eighth seed Richard Gasquet with very little fuss on Saturday, beating the Frenchman in straight sets to reach the Japan Open final. Third seed Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 career titles in Memphis two years ago, completed a clinical 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 victory in 89 minutes and will be hot favourite to win the title for a third time. He faces qualifier Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final after the beanpole Russian overpowered Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-3.
Nishikori, who won the Japan Open in 2012 and 2014, drew first blood against Gasquet as he tore through the first-set tiebreak, unleashing a whipped forehand into the corner to snaffle it 7-2. The world number 12 moved through the gears in the second set and Gasquet — the beaten Tokyo finalist in 2007 — had no answer as Nishikori battered shots past him at a dizzying pace. Once Nishikori, a former US Open runner-up who reached the New York semi-finals last month, bagged an early break in the second set, French resistance faded and he put Gasquet out of his misery with a sizzling backhand down the line.
“I figured there might be a tiebreak in there,” said Nishikori, who is chasing a first title since recovering from a lengthy wrist injury. “He’s such a dangerous opponent, but I stayed focus and found a nice groove. It’s just great to be back in the final.” Nishikori will attempt to join Pete Sampras as a three-time winner of the Japan Open, whose list of former winners also includes Roger Federer, John McEnroe and Ken Rosewall. Only Sweden’s Stefan Edberg has won more Tokyo titles, winning four times between 1987 and 1991.