Nishioka stuns Rublev to book ATP Washington final with Kyrgios

WASHINGTON: Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka shocked eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev on Saturday to join Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios in reaching Sunday’s ATP and WTA Washington Open men’s final with straight-set triumphs.

Nishioka, a 96th-ranked lefthander, stunned top seed Rublev 6-3, 6-4 in 80 minutes to book his first ATP final since 2020 at Delray Beach.

“Just enjoy the day tomorrow,” Nishioka said. “Just play my best. (I’m) excited.”

Australia’s 63rd-ranked Kyrgios ousted Sweden’s 115th-ranked Mikael Ymer 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 and reached back-to-back tour-level finals for the first time in his career.

The 27-year-old Aussie, who lost to Novak Djokovic last month in his first Grand Slam final, won the most recent of his six ATP titles at Washington in 2019.

“It was a tough-fought semi-final and I’m just happy to be in the final once again,” Kyrgios said. “I didn’t play anywhere near my best tennis.”

Nishioka, who won his only ATP title in 2018 at Shenzhen, hadn’t won a tour-level match since March when the week began but has taken five this week and will rise to at least 54th in Monday’s world rankings.

He fired only 12 winners but took full advantage of Rublev’s 33 unforced errors and converted on 4-of-5 break points. “I tried to be a little bit aggressive, because I knew Andrey was going to play aggressive,” Nishioka said. “I needed to play a little bit aggressive to him.”

Kyrgios is 3-0 against Nishioka, most recently winning in the third round of his 2019 Washington title run.

“We’ve played many times, but he beat me every time since 16 years old,” Nishioka said. “It’s really tough to play against him. He doesn’t have any pace. He just hits the ball so hard every time. Very tough to break his service games.

“The most important thing is I have to focus on my service games.”

Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, trying to end a nine-year WTA title drought at age 37, and 60th-ranked Liudmila Samsonova will meet in the women’s final at the US Open tuneup.

World number 37 Kanepi eliminated Australia’s Daria Saville 6-3, 6-1 while Samsonova routed China’s Wang Xiyu 6-1, 6-1.

Rublev, thwarted in his bid for a 12th career title and fourth of the year, fell to 1-2 against Nishioka.

Nishioka, 26, broke for a 3-1 lead, Rublev slamming his racquet to the court in frustration, and held through to claim the first set on his second ace.

After two exchanges of beaks in the second set, Nishioka broke to lead 5-4 and held to win when Rublev smashed a forehand long.

Kyrgios won the last three points in his first-set tiebreaker and took the only break of the match on a passing forehand winner in the penultimate game, firing his 10th ace to win in 94 minutes.

Kyrgios, who jumps to at least 42nd in Monday’s rankings, fired 28 winners with only 15 unforced errors and hit 71% of his first serves.

“I served pretty solid,” Kyrgios said. “But from the back of the court I didn’t play well at all.”

Kanepi plays smooth

Kanepi seeks her fifth career WTA title but her first since the 2013 Brussels Open. She won her only WTA hardcourt title at Brisbane in 2012.

Samsonova, 23, won her only meeting with Kanepi in last year’s first round at Wimbledon. Samsonova is into her first WTA hardcourt final, having won her only prior final at last year’s German Open.