Brisbane Int'l: Nishikori beats Wawrinka, moves into final

Kei Nishikori reached the Brisbane International semifinals for the first time on Saturday, defeating Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Kei Nishikori has levelled the career head-to-head record against Stan Wawrinka.   -  Reuters

Kei Nishikori corrected his bad record in Brisbane International semifinals by beating U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 on Saturday to reach the final for the first time at the season-opening tournament.

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Wawrinka, who won the Chennai tournament in India in the first week of the season for the three previous years, had treatment on his lower left leg at the end of the first-set tiebreaker and twice again in the second set. Third-seeded Nishikori took full advantage, converting his first break point in the second set to take a 3-1 lead when Wawrinka missed consecutive backhands. The No. 2-seeded Wawrinka broke back immediately, but dropped his serve again in the next game.

Wawrinka beat Nishikori in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year; his only win in their last four matches. With his win on Saturday, Nishikori has levelled up his career head-to-head record against the three-time major winner at 4-4.

Nishikori was making his seventh trip to Brisbane, and playing a semifinal for the fourth time. The Japanese star is still chasing his first Grand Slam title, with his best run at a major remaining his appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open final.

U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova was playing unseeded Alize Cornet in the women’s final on Saturday night.

PTI adds:

Nishikori was buoyed by the victory against Wawrinka. “This one will give me a lot of confidence, and hopefully tomorrow too,” he said. “The Grand Slam is going to be a big goal for me to play well.”

After an even first set with no breaks of serve Nishikori stepped up a gear to race away with the tiebreak. He then began to outplay Wawrinka and dominated the second set. “It was a really tough first set,” he said. “But I really stayed tough until the tiebreak, and I got one or two chance in the tiebreak. After that, I think I was playing better in the second.”

Wawrinka conceded he had been outplayed. “I think Kei was a little bit stronger than me today - I think he put a lot of pressure on me during the game,” Wawrinka said. “He was the aggressive player. He played better than me.”