BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - Kei Nishikori was in superb form as he demolished Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals of the Brisbane International on Saturday.
The 29-year-old gave his French opponent no chance as he put on a commanding all-court display to advance to the final for the second time in three years.
After his impressive straight sets quarterfinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, Nishikori said he had set his sights on returning to the world’s top five after falling to 39 last April due to a wrist injury at the end of 2017 that required time away from the tour.
And he showed all the qualities of a top-five player in his 66-minute demolition at Pat Rafter Arena.
He only served two aces compared with the 11 sent down by Chardy, but Nishikori returned superbly and pressured the Frenchman’s serve throughout, breaking him twice in each set.
Nishikori also moved around the court well, his speed not noticeably affected by the injuries that hampered him last year.
“Everything was working well today,” Nishikori said.
“I felt like I was too fast on the court today — I felt very good.
“Physically and tennis-wise I think it was perfect. I served well, I returned well — I think that was the key today — and I was moving well, that was fantastic.”
Nishikori was runner-up to Dimitrov in 2017 and will go into Sunday’s final against fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev, who defeated Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 in the second semifinal, as the firm favorite.
Earlier on Saturday, world No. 5 Naomi Osaka suffered a 6-2, 6-4 loss to No. 27-ranked Lesia Tsurenko, which cost the young star a place in the final and a chance to move up to the No. 3 world ranking — which would be a record high for a player from Japan.
“If I’m being really frank, I just feel like I had like the worst attitude today,” the 21-year-old Osaka said. “I feel like I didn’t really know how to cope with not playing well.”
She dropped two service games in the first and went down an early break in the second but had chances to get even in the sixth game, when she had two break points but committed a string of unforced errors and Tsurenko held for 4-2.
Osaka kicked the air at one point and dropped her racket to the court after missing another, before visibly questioning how she could be getting it so wrong when her forehand skewed wide on game point.
“I was sulking a little bit, and like there are moments that I tried not to do that. But then the ball wouldn’t go in, and then I would go back to being like childish and stuff,” Osaka said. “So I think like that was sort of my main problem today.
“I feel like last year I did a lot of that, and I’m trying to change it more, and I think I have — like toward the end of last year. Hopefully this isn’t like a recurring thing.”
Tsurenko is 4-0 in finals, and is hoping to extend that streak when she takes on Karolina Pliskova, who defeated Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4 to reach the title match.