Vienna | Nishikori and Anderson vie for O2 places
Kei Nishikori, who hasn’t won an ATP title since 2016, reached the final of the Erste Bank Open 500 for a chance of rectifying that omission after beating qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 6-3 to reach the championship round.
The score might look easy, but the match was very tough, Kukushkin was defending well and never gave up. Kei Nishikori
The Japanese, ranked 11th in the world, takes on the big hitting South African, Kevin Anderson, this year’s Wimbledon runner-up following his semi-final 6-3 3-6 6-4 victory over Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco.
Nishikori, who won the last of his 11 titles two years ago in Memphis, will attempt to end a run of eight successive defeats in tournament finals.
On Saturday, he missed three break points in the first set before finally breaking in the 10th game with an aggressive forehand winner.
Another break early in the second set was enough to ensure victory against his 71st-ranked opponent.
“The score might look easy, but the match was very tough,” he said. “Kukushkin was defending well and never gave up.”
Meanwhile Anderson could pick up his fifth career title and second of the year but trails Nishikori 4-2 in their head-to-head record though the big Springbok did win their last meeting.
He has the additional incentive of a win earning him a place at this year’s O2 next month as has Nishikori, who could move to within 125 points of qualification should he leave Vienna as champion.
Against Verdasco, Anderson hit nine of his 19 aces in the opening set of the two-and-a-half-hour contest. The Spaniard broke Anderson twice in the second but didn’t get another chance on the South African’s serve in the final set.