Washington (AFP) - Germany's Alexander Zverev dominated Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in a showdown of top-10 ranked rivals to reach the ATP Washington 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 on Sunday against 45th-ranked Anderson, who ousted 19th-ranked American Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 on the Washington hard courts.
"It would mean a lot," Zverev said. "Getting the hard-court season started with a win would be great."
Zverev dominated from the start, winning the first 10 points and 12 of the first 13 with 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 best showing at a Grand Slam, 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 Open 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 home town in 2011.
Nishikori, the 2015 Washington Open 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 2am. It wasn't easy to go to sleep.
"It's not the same when you go to sleep at 4am. It has been a little bit crazy. I've never had it like this before."
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.
Makarova is seeking her first WTA title since 2014 at Pattaya City and third overall.
Goerges made it through an all-German semi-final at the Washington Open on Saturday with a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 win over Andrea Petkovic.
In a match that lasted 21/2 hours, fourth seed Goerges rallied from a set down, producing 10 aces and breaking Petkovic's serve five times on the way to victory.
Makarova found her form in the second set where she broke Dodin in the fifth game to seize the momentum and she finished with 31 winners.
"I started today a bit slower than I have to be, but in the second set, I tried to step in a little bit more and to make her move, and it started working," Makarova told reporters. "I'm so happy that finally, I finished it in my way."
Nishikori echoed Sock's harsh words about the stadium court, saying: "The court wasn't my favourite... the court was much faster than the last couple days."
However, both men's finalists liked it with Zverev saying: "Centre court, I think is a great court.
It's not as fast as everybody thinks," while Anderson noted: "The bounces seemed pretty true."