Two-time champion Kei Nishikori yesterday swatted aside eighth seed Richard Gasquet with very little fuss, beating the Frenchman in straight sets to reach the Japan Open final.
Third seed Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 career titles two years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, completed a clinical 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 victory in 89 minutes and is to be hot favorite to win the title for a third time.
He faces qualifier Daniil Medvedev in today’s final after the 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 No. 12 moved through the gears in the second set and Gasquet had no answer as Nishikori battered shots past him at a dizzying pace.
Once Nishikori bagged an early break in the second set, Gasquet’s resistance faded and he put him 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. Only Sweden’s Stefan Edberg has captured more Tokyo titles, winning four times between 1987 and 1991.
Naomi Osaka said that she gets “stressed out” trying to live up to the hype after the US Open champion was beaten in the China Open semi-finals yesterday.
The 20-year-old Japanese, who struggled with a back injury in losing 6-4, 6-4 to unseeded Anastasija Sevastova, opened up afterward on dealing with expectations.
“I think definitely as the weeks go by, I have this feeling of wanting to prove myself. I think that sort of takes a toll on me a little bit, because I stress myself out in a way,” Osaka said.
“If you don’t win a tournament, then people will say: ‘Oh, she hasn’t won a tournament.’ If you haven’t won a Slam, they’ll say: ‘She hasn’t won a Slam,’” she said.
Asked at a post-match news conference why she appeared happier in defeat than she did after winning on Friday, Osaka said: “I don’t have any regrets from today.”
Sevastova, ranked 20th in the world, is to play Caroline Wozniacki in today’s final in Beijing after the Danish second seed defeated Chinese wildcard Wang Qiang 6-1, 6-3.
The 28-year-old Sevastova is one victory away from the fourth — but biggest — WTA title of her career.
Sevastova retired from tennis in May 2013 and studied leisure management instead after becoming frustrated by injuries.
The time off allowed her body to mend and she returned to the sport in January 2015 renewed.
“I enjoyed my life also away from tennis, but again coming back, it’s a long journey to come back,” Sevastova said.
“It’s a long way to get to the top 100. We were thinking, okay, maybe top 100 is a goal, but everything else is a bonus right now,” she added.
In the men’s singles, Juan Martin del Potro goes straight into the final without hitting a ball after Italy’s Fabio Fognini pulled out of their semi-final with an ankle injury.
The Argentine top seed is to face either Britain’s fifth seed Kyle Edmund or unseeded Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
Japanese couple Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka had their honeymoon wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their resourcefulness in enforced exile in Cape Verde has won them appointments as ambassadors for its Olympic team. The Kataokas had completed a third of their round-the-world trip when a suspension in long-haul flights stranded them for five months in the archipelago of 10 tiny islands off the coast of West Africa. Unable to resume their journey to Europe and then home to Japan, and unwilling to head to the African mainland, where virus cases are spiking, they had to trade their skills with domestic businesses to
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