Nishikori to face Raonic in Japan Open final
TOKYO (AP) — Fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori advanced to the final of the Japan Open with a 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-2) victory over unseeded Benjamin Becker of Germany on Saturday.
Nishikori will play third-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada in Sunday’s final. Raonic downed unseeded Gilles Simon of France 6-1, 6-4 in the first semifinal in 1 hour and 11 minutes.
Nishikori has been dealing with a lower-back injury the past few days. He started slowly against Becker and appeared to have trouble with his mobility, before turning it on in the second set.
Nishikori has a 3-1 record against Raonic, including a victory in the final here in 2012. Nishikori also beat Raonic in five sets in the fourth round at this year’s U.S. Open en route to the final.
The Japanese will be vying for his second-straight title and fourth of the season, having already won in Memphis, Barcelona and Kuala Lumpur.
Becker, ranked 62nd, saved two break points in the fourth game of the opening set to avoid going to down 3-1, then broke Nishikori for a 4-3 lead and used his strong serve to take the set.
Nishikori came out blazing in the second set, blasting forehands from the baseline on the way to three-successive service breaks.
The final set stayed on serve until the tiebreak, when Nishikori took the final six points to clinch the match.
Simon could not handle the power of Raonic, who used his booming forehand and deep returns to record the victory.
“I executed well and had a good vision of what I wanted to do. That’s why I could come up with the shots I needed,” said Raonic.
The Canadian also hit some nice volleys in the win.
“It’s important to be efficent coming forward against him (Simon),” noted Raonic.
Raonic took the opening set with relative ease, breaking Simon in the second game and again in the sixth behind a big serve and some nice passing shots.
The second set was on serve until the fifth game, when Raonic broke to move ahead 3-2 and he held that advantage the rest of the way to take the match.
Raonic, ranked eighth, will be appearing in the final here for the third straight year. He was beaten by Juan Del Potro of Argentina last year.
Raonic notched 11 aces in the win over Simon.