MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Kei Nishikori of Japan rallied after dropping the first set to beat American Sam Querrey 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) Saturday night in the Memphis Open semifinals.
Now the two-time defending champ will have a chance at a three-peat at The Racquet Club, something that eluded the likes of Tommy Haas, Todd Martin and Jimmy Connors, who missed out not once, but twice.
“I think maybe it’d be great if I win three in a row, but for me I had a good three matches here before,” Nishikori said. “It’s not about defending title, just playing good tennis and result will come if I play good.”
Nishikori will play another big server in second-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Donald Young, in the final Sunday.
Ranked No. 5 in the world, Nishikori visited with a trainer twice late in the second set, the second time getting a blister on his left pinkie toe taped up. He had his right wrist wrapped with ice after the match, but he said it was no big deal heading into his 12th career ATP World Tour final and first since winning Tokyo last year.
Nishikori now has dropped the first set in five of his last six matches dating to the Australian Open. He has won three straight matches in Memphis after losing the first set, which he hadn’t done since the 2012 Australian Open in the second, third and fourth rounds.
“One more match, I put all in tomorrow,” Nishikori said.
He survived this tournament’s longest match at 2 hours, 41 minutes after being broken in the third game of the final set. Querrey was two points away from advancing himself trying for his first title here since 2010 and first since Los Angeles in 2012.
“To go toe to toe with a guy ranked No. 5 in the world, it literally could have gone either way so that kind of gives me some confidence,” Querrey said.
Nishikori broke Querrey to even the set at 3-3, but Nishikori missed out on two match points as Querrey held to send the match into a final tiebreak. Querrey won three straight points to go up 4-2 on his 27th ace of the match only to lose the next four points with the last on his ninth double-fault.
Querrey hit a forehand into the corner to pull within a point only to float his return on Nishikori’s fourth match point.
That sets up the first final between the top two seeds at this tournament since 2007 when second-seeded Haas beat Andy Roddick for the title. Haas lost the next year in the second round. Martin won here in 1994 and 1995 only to lose the 1996 final to Andy Sampras. Connors lost the 1980 final to John McEnroe in his first three-peat bid and lost in the quarterfinals to Brad Gilbert in 1986 on his second.
Anderson became only the third South African to reach the final in Memphis and the first since Wayne Ferreira in 1992. Anderson, ranked 15th, improved to 8-3 in reaching his first final this year and first since Acapulco last year. Anderson’s seeding and bye worked well for him in attempting his third career title and first since Delay Beach in 2012.
“It’s great,” Anderson said. “I have a shot at winning a title tomorrow, and that’s what I came here to do.”
Young came in ranked 67th and tried to reach his second career final and first since Bangkok in 2011. But Young struggled with his serve and had five double-faults in his fourth career ATP semifinal.
“It was tough for me,” Young said. “I didn’t serve the way I wanted to, but he played well overall for sure.”
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