• Kyodo, Reuters

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Kei Nishikori advanced to the final of the Mexico Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 semifinal victory over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson on Friday, seizing a career-high world No. 4 ranking.

Top seed Nishikori appeared to be cruising to an easy victory before the fifth-seeded South African rallied midway through the second set. After suffering an early service break in the third set, Nishikori broke back before sealing victory in 2 hours, 2 minutes.

“My opponent was strong and it became a tough match in the second set, but in the end I was able to get back on my game and grab the victory,” said Nishikori, who will play Spaniard David Ferrer in the final.

Ferrer topped Ryan Harrison of the United States 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.

A Nishikori title in Acapulco will make him Japan’s career wins leader with his ninth championship. He is currently tied at eight with Kimiko Date-Krumm.

If Nishikori wins the final and Rafael Nadal fails to claim a title in Buenos Aires, Nishikori would rise to No. 3 in the world.

Maria Sharapova reached the semifinals earlier in the week on the women’s side, but the world No. 2 pulled out just hours ahead of her match on Friday because she was suffering from a stomach virus.

“I’m really sorry to have to withdraw,” the top-seeded Russian said on her website. “I had a great start to the event and was hoping I could recover in time for tonight’s match but unfortunately it was not enough time.

“I want to thank the tournament for organizing such a great event and most importantly the fans who were so passionate during all my matches.”

French Open champion Sharapova, winner of five Grand Slam titles, reached the last four of the hardcourt tournament with a 6-1 4-6 6-2 win over Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova on Thursday.

Sharapova, who will next play at Indian Wells, California from March 11, was due to meet Caroline Garcia of France in the semifinals.

The third-seeded Garcia will face fifth-seeded Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in the hardcourt final at The Fairmont Acapulco Princess. Bacsinszky beat Bulgaria’s Sesil Karatantcheva 6-2, 6-4.

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