MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic reached the final of the Kremlin Cup on Saturday, beating Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
In Sunday’s final, the big-serving Croatian will seek his fourth title of the season against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
“It was very difficult,” Cilic said. “I felt that he was hitting the ball very, very good and I felt I wasn’t serving as well as yesterday.”
“The last time I played Bautista was in 2002 and we were under 14s, so it’s going to be interesting. We’re very good friends,” Cilic added. “He plays very well from the back line and he doesn’t make mistakes, so it’s going to be difficult.”
The women’s final will pit sixth-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia will play Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.
Cilic faced stiff resistance from world No. 74 Kukushkin, despite the 68 ranking places separating them, and landed just 55 percent of first serves.
Kukushkin is a Moscow specialist, having reached the final last year before losing to Richard Gasquet.
Earlier in the day, Cilic secured qualification for the ATP tour finals based on his ranking.
World no. 16 Bautista Agut, seeded fifth in Moscow, will play in his third final of a breakout season after beating third-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4.
“I served well and moved well along the court,” Bautista Agut said. “I’ve won both finals that I’ve been playing this year. I feel confident.”
In the semifinals of the women’s WTA event, Pavlyuchenkova dominated Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakov from start to finish, winning 6-2, 6-2 to reach her 10th career final on the WTA tour.
Pavlyuchenkova dominated the Czech qualifier from start to finish, winning 6-2, 6-2 to reach her 10th career final on the WTA tour.
The 18-year-old Siniakova was playing in her first WTA semifinal.
“My opponent actually didn’t play too badly,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “She wasn’t frightened today and started well. I think I did everything right today.”
Earlier, Begu fought to a 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3 win over fourth-seeded Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
Begu enters her first final since beating Donna Vekic in Tashkent in 2012.
“No pressure at all, I’m just enjoying the tournament,” Begu said. “I had a really bad year last year, struggling with a shoulder injury, so now I’m just really happy to be back.”
In the crowd for Pavlyuchenkova’s match was Russian tennis chief and tournament chairman Shamil Tarpischev, despite the WTA saying Friday he would be banned for a year after making derogatory comments about Serena and Venus Williams.
Tarpischev was accompanied by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, whose arrival caused the start of the match to be delayed for security reasons.
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