April 23, 2016

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori beat Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday to return to the final of the Barcelona Open.

Nishikori dominated Paire on the outdoor clay court, finishing the match with a total of five of nine break chances converted.

The second-seeded Japanese will face either eight-time winner Rafael Nadal or Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday.

''It's been great these three years here so I hope I can play a great match tomorrow,'' Nishikori said.

Nishikori took an early lead at 3-2 after Paire risked a drop shot that fell into the net to cede his second service game. It got worse for the Frenchman when he committed consecutive double faults to cede the last two points of the first set.

Nishikori hit a backhand winner down the line to break Paire's first service game in the second set, just one of several passing shots in an overall strong performance.

''Today I made four or five great returns,'' Nishikori said. ''I had to be aggressive with his second serve, so I tried to step in more and it worked well.''

Paire was erratic, mixing unforced errors and trick shots, including a between-the-legs drop shot that he unsuccessfully tried to repeat on the match's last point.

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