Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka defeated top-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the championship match of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
It is the 33-year-old Wawrinka’s 28th appearance in a tour-level final, but his first since the 2017 French Open and his first since undergoing two surgeries on his left knee in August 2017.
Wawrinka, who landed 35 winners with eight aces, will meet Gael Monfils in Sunday’s final. Wawrinka is 3-2 in head-to-head matches against the Frenchman, who also needed three sets to put away fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“Tactically I think I played good and physically I was tough, I was happy that I could handle it physically,” said Monfils.
“My game plan was definitely to make him play a lot of balls and at the end I think it paid off. I was very happy because I kept the aggressive spirit at the end and I think that is why I won today.”
Home crowd favorite Diego Schwartzman trailed 1-4 in the deciding set and had to save a match point before dispatching top-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the semifinals in Buenos Aires.
Serving at 5-6 in the third set and facing match point at 30-40, Schwartzman fired a forehand winner and eventually headed to the tiebreaker. A forehand error from Thiem ended it, sending Schwartzman to his knees and the crowd to its feet after two hours and 31 minutes of action.
The fourth-seeded Schwartzman will meet Italian No. 3 seed Marco Cecchinato, who spoiled local hopes for an all-Argentinian final with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Guido Pella. Cecchinato won 71 percent of his service points and did not face a break point in the 69-minute match.
Reilly Opelka fought off six match points and outlasted top-seeded John Isner 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) in an ace-filled, all-American semifinal in Uniondale, N.Y.
They set a record for combined aces in a three-set match with 81, 43 by the 6-foot-11 Opelka and 38 by the 6-foot-10 Isner. There were no breaks of serve and both had only one double fault.
It was the second straight slugfest between the pair, as Opelka notched a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) win against Isner at last month’s Australian Open.
Opelka’s title-match opponent will be Canadian qualifier Brayden Schnur, whose dream week continued with a 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Sam Querrey. Schnur saved five set points in the opening set. An early break in the deciding set sent Schnur, ranked No. 154 in the world, on his way to his first final.