Grigor Dimitrov rolled past defending champion Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-2 to advance to a Brisbane final showdown against Kei Nishikori.
“It’s just one of those matches that you just need to be ready,” Dimitrov said. “Milos is one of the biggest servers out there. I mean, I knew what to expect, so I just had to execute the right way.
“I felt everything went pretty well in the first set for me. From then on, I had, I think, a different mentality and different approach towards the second set, and I was just focusing on my game.
“After that first break, I think, played a big role for me. I felt mentally I was strong. I was hitting the ball well enough. I think this is where I had the match in my hands.”
Raonic, who had beaten Roger Federer to win the 2016 title and then just knocked out Rafael Nadal yesterday, still hasn’t solved the Dimitrov riddle, dropping to 1-3 against the Bulgarian.
“He was playing well,” Raonic said. “I didn’t turn around and bring the performance I needed to bring. He made it obviously very difficult on myself.
“I didn’t serve a high enough percentage. I got a lot of free points throughout that first set, but no, I was just a tidbit slow. I think he won over 80% of second-serve points, which is, for lack of a better word, pretty bad on my side.”
“He was always making me hit an extra ball. He was defending really well. He was changing it up quite well. When he had to sort of step up, he stepped up on the first chance to be aggressive, so he’s doing a lot of very good things, as well.”
Dimitrov takes his talents into the final against Nishikori who eased past Stan Wawrinka 7-6, 6-3.
“Feeling very happy to be in the final tomorrow,” Nishikori said. “It’s first time for me to play final. I tried many times, and this is first time to get Sunday, so I’m really happy. And especially beating Stan today, it was a good start of the year, I think. Yeah, well, tomorrow it’s going to be maybe tougher match, but I look forward to play final tomorrow.”
Nishikori has won three of his last four against Wawrinka, but he wants better results against the top players.
“My goal is to beat Novak and Andy,” Nishikori said. “I think those two are really dominating right now the tour last year, and especially Novak. I lost him, like, seven times last year, so hope I can get him next time.
“Yeah, the Grand Slam is going to be a big goal for me to play well.”
Added Wawrinka, “I think it was, in general, a really good level today. Kei was playing really good. Stayed really aggressive for the match. I had some little opportunity in the first set, a few points that can turn the match, but he was playing a little bit better than me. Yeah, it’s like that.”
Nishikori leads Dimitrov 3-0 in their series recently beating him in three in the Canadian quarterfinals.
“Just like any other match,” Dimitrov said of the approach to facing Nishikori. “There is guys that I have always played, I mean, differently, I feel. Kei is one of those guys.
“I think last year we played a pretty close match. I felt like I had my chance and my momentum. But it’s just another match for me. As I said, it’s the final. I’m not playing anything next week. So, for sure, I’m going to get out there and just leave it all.”
Nishikori seeks his 12th career title, Dimitrov his 5th.
SUNDAY BRISBANE SCHEDULE
AT RAFTER ARENA start 5:00 pm
DOUBLES FINAL – [WC] T. Kokkinakis (AUS) / J. Thompson (AUS) vs G. Muller (LUX) / S. Querrey (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
SINGLES FINAL –  G. Dimitrov (BUL) vs  K. Nishikori (JPN)
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