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 Tokyo 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 be attempting 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 captured more Tokyo titles, winning four times between 1987 and 1991.