In-form Andy Murray is just one win away from a third straight title after crushing Japan’s Kei Nishikori to seal a place in the Shanghai Masters final where he will face comeback king David Ferrer.
The British second seed and defending champion was overwhelming favourite against 47th-ranked Nishikori and showed his superior class, coasting to a 6-3, 6-0 win under lights at the Qi Zhong stadium.
Earlier, Ferrer battled back from a set down for the third consecutive match to beat Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-3 in an all-Spanish semi-final.
World number four Murray, who will replace Roger Federer as number three if he wins Sunday’s final, broke twice in the first set, winning 100 percent of points on his first serve.
In the second set the 24-year-old Scot, coming into the tie on a 13-match winning streak including titles in Bangkok and Tokyo, broke in the second game and demolished his opponent in the second set.
Despite his defeat 21-year-old Nishikori will become on Monday the highest-ranked Japanese male player ever after his run in Shanghai. He is projected to move up to around number 32.
In the first semi-final, Ferrer looked to dictate from early on, with the match developing into a fascinating duel between the third seed’s powerful forehand and left-handed Lopez’s sliced backhand.
Neither player could force a break in a gripping opening set. Ferrer took control of the tie-break at 4-1 but he could only manage one more point as Lopez, 30, drew first blood, Ferrer smashing a ball into the crowd in anger.
The determined Ferrer stayed on the offensive, breaking in the third game of the second set and again in the ninth game to level the match.
A tight deciding set stayed on serve until a wild Lopez forehand gave Ferrer a crucial single break in the eighth game, allowing him to serve out for the win.
Ferrer, who came into the match with a 1-6 losing record in hard court head-to-heads against 28th-ranked Lopez, said he had refocused after losing the opening set.
“When I lost the first set, I tried to forget the tiebreak and I tried to focus again. I played better in the second and the third. I served better,” said the 29-year-old, who is ranked number five in the world.
“I’ve never won a Masters 1000, and it is very important for me, for my career, for my tennis career,” added Ferrer, who said he would have to step up a gear to beat Murray.
In his previous two matches the Spaniard saved three match points to beat Juan Carlos Ferrero and edged Andy Roddick in a third-set tie-break.