Moscow – US Open champion Marin Cilic has battled back from a set down to advance into the Kremlin Cup final after beating last year’s runner-up Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan on Saturday.
In the title-deciding match he will face fifth seed Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut, who saw off Latvia’s Ernest Gulbis, seeded third here.
The 26-year-old Croat Cilic, a career-high eighth in the ATP rankings, also claimed the fifth spot in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
He fired 10 aces for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win in two hours 12 minutes.
“This was one of my childhood dreams,” Cilic said about winning a place in the London finals.
“I’m extremely happy about this success. It’s another achievement in my career. It will be a big honour for me to participate there.”
The rivals held serve until the ninth game when Kukushkin, 74th in the ATP rankings, broke to take the opening set in 49 minutes.
Second-seed Cilic replied with a break in the second set to pull the scores level at 1-1.
In the deciding set Cilic produced two more breaks to win the match and book a place in his fifth ATP final this season.
Meanwhile, Bautista-Agut had a much easier path to the final, breaking Gulbis’s serve once in each set to win 6-4, 6-4.
“Today I played very close to my best tennis,” Bautista-Agut said.
“I served well and moved well around the court. That was the key to my success today.
“I’ve won both finals that I’ve played this year and I hope I’ll be able to play a good final tomorrow as well.”
In the WTA section of the event sixth seed Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova booked a final spot with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Czech teenager Katerina Siniakova.
In the final Pavlyuchenkova will face Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu, who ousted another Czech player, fourth seed Lucie Safarova 7-6 (7/5), 1-6, 6-3.
Pavlyuchenkova, 30th in the WTA rankings, was in command from the start, breaking her rival’s serve twice in both sets to win in one hour 14 minutes.
“My opponent didn’t play too bad today,” Pavlyuchenkova said.
“She wasn’t frightened and started well. I think I did everything right today.”
In the other semi-final the opening set was decided on a tiebreak that Begu won to grab the lead.
This year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist, Safarova broke twice in the second to level at one set all.
In the decider, Begu got the crucial break in the eighth game to reach her first final in two years.
“I don’t feel any pressure here, I just enjoy the tournament and it seems to work perfect so far,” Begu said.
“Of course I’m happy to get a final spot here after struggling with a shoulder injury last year.”
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