BUENOS AIRES – World No. 5 Kei Nishikori overcame an early scare to beat hometown favorite and world No. 77 Carlos Berlocq 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday to advance to the final of the Argentina Open.
Nishikori will face Alexander Dolgopolov of Ukraine in Sunday’s final with the 27-year-old Japanese looking to win his first title of the season and 12th of his career.
“It was a tough match and the heat didn’t help,” said the top-seeded Nishikori, who dropped his serve once in the first set and could not recover the advantage, wasting five break point opportunities of his own.
Nishikori and Berlocq each had their chances in the second set, with both facing five break points on serve, but it was the Shimane Prefecture native who was able to wrestle the momentum away from his opponent, breaking the Argentine twice to take the stanza 6-4.
“My opponent hit good drop shots and I was not able to counter until the end of the match. In the third set I sharpened my focus,” said Nishikori.
The Japanese player ramped his game up both on serve and return in the decider. He won 84 percent of his points on first serve while holding Berlocq to under 65 percent, breaking him twice on the way to clinching the match.
Nishikori is making his first appearance in five years on the Argentina Open’s clay courts. In the 2012 tournament, the only other time he has competed in the event, he reached the quarterfinals where Stan Wawrinka topped him in straight sets.