Frances Tiafoe added a little more sparkle to his already glittering season by beating South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 to set up an all-American final against Taylor Fritz at the Japan Open on Saturday.
Tiafoe, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open in September, reached his second title-decider of the season despite a poor second set in his victory.
“It was a weird match, but happy to get through,” Tiafoe, 24, said. “In these kind of matches… it’s not always gonna be pretty, it’s not always gonna be your best stuff, but a win is what matters.”
Kwon looked nervous at times in the opener and struggled to handle Tiafoe’s deft mix of accuracy, touch and power as the American rattled off five games in a row before claiming the set 6-2. But the South Korean then swept the second set 6-0.
Fourth-seeded Tiafoe upped the ante in the third set, winning the two break points he needed to serve for the match at 5-2, only to stumble once more.
The American sealed the win at the second time of asking with a cross-court forehand.
Third-seeded Fritz downed Canada’s Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in the second semifinal.
The pair traded high-quality shots throughout the match as they split the first two sets.
Fritz slipped and still landed a brilliant lob shot to win the break point in the decider and go 5-3 up before sealing the match with an ace.
His victory ensured he will make his top 10 debut in next week’s rankings.
It will be Fritz’s third final this year, having won the other two at Indian Wells and Eastbourne.