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By Richard Pagliaro | Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori fought off four set points and won 11 of the last 13 games capitalizing on Stan Wawrinka's collapse, 7-6 (6), 6-1 to reach his first Toronto final.

Photo credit: Phil Sutherland/Corleve

Squandering a 5-2 lead and four set points wasn't the worst of Stan Wawrinka's competitive sins today.

Seventy-nine minutes into this Toronto semifinal, Wawrinka lost complete control and desire with one epic fail.

Watch: Wawrinka's Epic Botch

A few feet from the net, the second seed lined up a sitter with his signature shot, while Kei Nishikori dropped his arms conceding the point.

Then Wawrinka wristed a wild backhand wide in an abysmal error that would make most hackers cringe. Some in the crowd actually gasped.

Dangling over the net, Wawrinka tugged his red shirt over his head in a mock effort to suppress the horror-show shot.

There was no hiding from Wawrinka's collapse or Nishikori's comeback.

Nishikori fought off four set points in the opening set and won 11 of the final 13 games dismissing a wilting Wawrinka, 7-6 (6), 6-1, in a bizarre match to reach his first career Rogers Cup final.

It is the third Masters final of Nishikori's career and his first since fighting off five match points to subdue Gael Monfils en route to the Miami final where he fell to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 6-3, 6-3.

The third-seeded Japanese will face either Djokovic or Monfils in tomorrow's final.

"It's third time (in a Masters final) so I'm very happy to be here in the final tomorrow," Nishikori told ESPN's Brad Gilbert afterward. "Really, I have to play my tennis to beat Novak or Monfils, he's been playing great."

Credit Nishikori for fighting hard and exploiting the huge helping hand from his opponent.

Playing for his first Masters final since he won his lone Masters shield at the 2014 Monte Carlo, Wawrinka appeared to be in command building leads of 4-1 and 5-2.

Watching the two-time Grand Slam champion capitulate after that epic error was like watching a Formula One driver cause a car crash attempting to parallel park. Yet Wawrinka's woes started at the end of the opening set.

Serving for the set at 5-2, the blue hard-court began to resemble a sink hole for Wawrinka. A Nishikori return collided with the tape and crept over giving him triple break point. He broke at love igniting a run that saw him win eight of nine points to level at 5-all.

The 2015 Roland Garros champion saved break points holding for 6-5, then crunched a forehand return down the middle for double set point.

Nishikori fought off the first set point with a dazzling serve-and-volley play then singed the center stripe with an ace to save the second, eventually holding to force the tie break.

Thumping a 136 mph ace down the middle for 5-4, Wawrinka earned two more set points on a Nishikori error, but could not convert.

Narrowly missing the mark with a backhand crosscourt on his third set point, Wawrinka sank a double fault into net on his fourth set point.

That was the beginning of the end. A net cord that rattled long gave Nishikori his second set point.

When Wawrinka missed the mark with a forehand ending the 64-minute opener, he bounced his racquet in disgust seeing a set that seemed in his grasp slip away.

Emotional hangover haunted Wawrinka in his opening service game of the second set.

Darting forward, Nishikori showed eye-popping speed digging out a forehand pass crosscourt. A couple of points later, Wawrinka sailed a forehand as Nishikori broke for 2-0.

Consolidating the break with a firm love hold, Nishikori won 12 of the first 16 points extending the lead to 3-0.

"I kind of knew I had to step up in the second set," Nishikori said. "First couple of games I took it. After that I had to really concentrate because he was a little down and if I let him come back he would comeback."

Wawrinka bungled a pair of backhands, including the mind-blowing miss wide of the sideline, donating the break and 4-0 lead.

The two-time Grand Slam champion completely capitulated the second set.

Now Nishikori, who earned his first win over the Swiss since his 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 6-7 (5), 6-4, 2014 US Open quarterfinal conquest, will try to break through for his first Masters title. Djokovic has won nine of 11 meetings with Nishikori, while the 26-year-old Japanese is 2-0 against Monfils.


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