Zverev rips Nishikori, faces Anderson for title
Germany’s Alexander Zverev dominated Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4 Saturday in a showdown of top-10 rivals to reach the ATP and WTA Citi Open final against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
Zverev, ranked a career-best eighth this week, dropped only seven points on his serve and never faced a break point in the 63-minute affair, extending ninth-ranked Nishikori’s ATP title drought to 30 events over 18 months.
The 20-year-old from Hamburg will try for his fifth career title and fourth of the year Sunday against 45th-ranked Anderson, who ousted 19th-ranked American Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 on the Washington hardcourts.
“It would mean a lot,” Zverev said. “Getting the hardcourt season started with a win would be great.”
Zverev dominated from the start, winning the first 10 points and 12 of the first 13, Nishikori netting a backhand to surrender a decisive break at love in the second game. Both men held out from there, Zverev taking the first set in 28 minutes.
Zverev hit a forehand winner to break for a 2-1 lead in the second set and held to the finish, claiming victory when Nishikori netted a forehand.
“I played a great match,” Zverev said. “I started 3-0. That helped the confidence. I played really well.”
Zverev, whose fourth-round Wimbledon run was his Grand Slam best, won 31-of-33 first-serve points, all 13 in the first set, and 9-of-14 on his second serve.
Zverev is 2-0 against Anderson, winning a 2015 Washington second-round match and a first-round meeting in May on his way to the Rome title, his third crown of 2017 after Montpellier and Munich.
“It’s going to be a tough match. Alex has had a great year,” Anderson said. “For me it’s really focusing on things I can do and playing the best I can.”
Anderson reached his first final since winning his third career ATP title in 2015 at Winston-Salem. The lanky 31-year-old from Johannesburg also won at Delray Beach in 2012 and his hometown in 2011.
Nishikori, the 2015 Washington champion, last raised a trophy at Memphis in February 2016, a run that includes six finals losses.
“I don’t feel like last year yet, but I feel like if I keep playing my best tennis it will come back,” Nishikori said.
Nishikori was also tired after two long matches that finished after midnight because of rain.
“Just a bit tough this week,” Nishikori said. “I had two matches finish at 2 a.m. It wasn’t easy to go to sleep.
“It’s not the same when you go to sleep at 4 a.m. It has been a little bit crazy. I’ve never had it like this before.”
Makarova into WTA final
Russian seventh seed Ekaterina Makarova outlasted French fifth seed Oceane Dodin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to book a berth in Sunday’s women’s final against German fourth seed Julia Goerges or Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, the 2013 Washington runner-up.
Makarova, being coached by Britain’s Nigel Sears, seeks her first WTA title since 2014 at Pattaya City and third overall.
Sock, this year’s Auckland and Delray Beach champion, had not dropped a set all week and had been broken only once, but Anderson broke him early in each set and denied three break points with aces and another with a service winner.
“Some of my best serves were on break points,” Anderson said. “I play my best tennis when my back is against the wall.”
Sock rips ‘worst court’
Sock ripped the stadium court he played upon all week, saying, “Probably the worst court of the year. Speed, bounces, everything. Pretty shocking. Probably the worst court on the tour.”
Nishikori was no fan either, saying: “The court wasn’t my favorite… the court was much faster than the last couple days.”
The finalists both liked it, Zverev saying, “Center court I think is a great court. It’s not as fast as everybody thinks,” while Anderson noted, “The bounces seemed pretty true.”