Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka battled past Kei Nishikori at the ATP Tour event in Rotterdam to set up a final against Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Swiss Wawrinka, who reached his first final since undergoing two knee surgeries in 2017, fired 35 winners to overcome Japanese top seed Nishikori 6-2 4-6 6-4 in just over two hours.
In an intense final set, both players held serve with relative ease until the 10th game when wildcard Wawrinka fired two scorching forehands and converted on match point to book a place in Sunday’s decider.
Wawrinka, 33, is aiming for his 17th career title and second in Rotterdam – he won in 2015.
“This is a big relief for me,” said Wawrinka.
“It’s my first final since the [knee] surgery, so to show I can still play at this level against the top players is very important for me.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 16, 2019
“When you come back from a surgery like that, you need to be patient with yourself. You look to start to win matches and gain confidence.
“I think my level is there physically and tennis-wise. If I stay focused and do the right things, I think I’m going to get back to a good place.”
A week after falling to Daniil Medvedev in the Sofia Open semifinals, Monfils’s relentless court coverage proved the difference as he defeated the Russian fifth seed 4-6 6-3 6-4 in their semifinal.
Unseeded Frenchman Monfils finished with 29 winners to move a step closer to a first title since his won the Qatar Open in January last year.
Medvedev, who won the Sofia Open last week, struggled to land his forehands in the final set as he conceded a decisive break of serve in the ninth game of the final set.
“Tactically I think I played good and physically I was tough, I was happy that I could handle it physically,” the 32-year-old Monfils said.
“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.”
In Buenos Aires, fourth seed Diego Schwartzman saved a match point on his way to beating Dominic Thiem 2-6 6-4 7-6(5) in the semifinals.
The Argentine will fave Marco Cecchinato in the final after the Italian beat Guido Pella 6-4 6-2.
9 January 2018
As the first Grand Slam of the season fast approaches, top-10 players are leading the char... More
16 February 2017
In the first part of our series analysing the similarities and differences between men's ... More
22 October 2019
Roger Federer has celebrated his 1500th ATP match with a commanding win over Germany's Pet... More