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Nara storms back to beat Erakovic, advance to Citi Open final

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI, AP

Kurumi Nara advanced to the Citi Open final with a semifinal victory over New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic on Saturday.

Nara, ranked 40th in the world, was wiped out in the first set but came back to beat the 82nd-ranked New Zealander 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach her second final of the year. In the final, the 22-year-old Nara will face sixth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won an all-Russian semifinal against second seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Nara. “In the first set, I was too pumped up. From the second set, I changed my mind set toward getting into rallies. I played to my strength and that was it.”

It will be the first career meeting between Nara and the 26th-ranked Kuznetsova.

Nara, who won her first career WTA title earlier this year in Rio de Janeiro, dropped the first eight games of the match but battled back.

In men’s action, seventh-ranked Milos Raonic, coming off his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, powered into the final of the by defeating American Donald Young.

The 23-year-old Canadian second seed fired 15 aces in downing 73rd-ranked Young 6-4, 7-5 at the US. Open hardcourt warmup event to reach his 11th ATP final and first since falling to Juan Martin Del Potro last September at Tokyo.

“I have a much better understanding of what I need to bring out myself, especially early in a tournament, to reach the weekend stages,” Raonic said.

“Mentally I know what I need to do to compete better in the important stages of matches.”

Raonic, seeking his sixth career title and first since last year at Bangkok, will next face compatriot Vasek Pospisil in the first all-Canadian final in ATP history.

Pospisil, seeded 13th, edged sixth-seed Richard Gasquet of France 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5.

Pospisil was two points from losing while serving and trailing 5-4 in the third set. But he came back to hold, then broke in the next game when Gasquet’s signature backhand broke down and produced three errors.

Raonic broke Young in the final game of each set, taking the match after 75 minutes when the American netted a backhand.

“I just put the pressure on his final service games of each set and it worked out,” Raonic said.

Raonic, who won 33 of 36 first-serve points in the match and never faced a break point, says he now plays “more simple tennis” and “keeps it basic” rather than going for too much too soon, building confidence for such attacks later in weeks and taking full advantage of his powerful serve.

“I like to play with rhythm and he doesn’t allow you to do that,” Young said. “I had some chances but they weren’t big. With a player like that you’re only going to get small windows and you have to take advantage.”

Young, who never faced Raonic before, still enjoyed his deepest ATP run since reaching the 2011 Bangkok final, where he lost to Britain’s Andy Murray.

Raonic won his only ATP meeting with countryman Pospisil last year in a Montreal semifinal after a long junior rivalry.

Pospisil took the only break of the final set in the last game of his quarterfinal win over Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo which had finished early Saturday morning.