WASHIGNTON, Aug 8 — Italy’s Jannik Sinner, the ATP’s top-ranked teen, will face Mackenzie McDonald in Sunday’s Citi Open final after the American denied Japan’s Kei Nishikori his first championship match in 2 1/2 years.
World number 24 Sinner, seeking his third ATP crown at age 19, beat 20-year-old US wildcard Jenson Brooksby 7-6 (7/2), 6-1, while 107th-ranked McDonald reached his first ATP final by outgrinding Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Sinner, who won at Sofia last year and Melbourne in January, could become the youngest Washington hardcourt champion since 19-year-old Juan Martin del Potro in 2008.
“What I’m trying to do is trying to work hard, trying to understand many things, and I think that’s the most important thing when you’re young,” Sinner said. “It’s working good.”
Sinner became the first Italian finalist in the event’s 52-year history. He was the first Italian in Washington’s last four in 25 years.
After saving three break and set points in the 12th game of the first set, Sinner took the final four points in the tie-breaker and the 2020 French Open quarter-finalist rolled through the second set.
“The tie-break gave me confidence for the second set,” Sinner said. “The level was quite high.”
McDonald, whose only prior semi-final was in 2019 at Delray Beach, was happy to make his first final at age 26.
“It means a lot,” he said. “But I’m trying to keep my cool. It’s Saturday. I don’t want to get too high.”
World number 67 Nishikori, who won the Washington crown in 2015, was seeking his first final since winning his 12th career title at Brisbane in January 2019.
Nishikori, 31, was pleased with making his first semi-final in more than two years after the 2014 US Open runner-up lost in the Tokyo Olympic quarter-finals.
“It was a good week,” Nishikori said. “I didn’t want to lose but it was a tough match and I’m happy how I played tonight and this week.”
After an early exchange of breaks at the start, McDonald broke in the seventh game to claim the first set.
Nishikori and McDonald exchanged four breaks in the first six games of the second set before Nishikori broke again in the eighth game when the American netted a forehand and held again to force a third set.
“He played good tennis,” Nishikori said. “I didn’t start well. I started playing better but he was playing well at the end.”
Both players fended off every break chance in the final set until match point, when Nishikori netted a forehand to surrender the match.
“Physically it was tough, especially in the third,” McDonald said. “Mentally I hung in there really well. I made good decisions at the end. I was going for my shots.”
Brooksby on the rise
Sinner was the only seed in the semis. Three unseeded players hadn’t reached the Washington semis since a switch from clay in 1987.
Brooksby, ranked 130th but set to crack the top 100 on Monday, had not defeated a top-75 foe before this week but rolled over four such players without dropping a set until facing Sinner.
“Gaining a lot of confidence that I can compete and beat anybody,” Brooksby said. “It keeps me believing more and more that I’m doing the right things.” — AFP