Tiafoe reaches Tokyo final with battling display

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Admitting it wasn’t “pretty,” Frances Tiafoe added a little more sparkle to a glittering season by reaching the Japan Open final with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory over South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in Tokyo on Saturday.

Tiafoe, who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open in September, flexed the same muscles that have carried him into the world top 20 to reach his second title-decider of the season despite a poor second set.

“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 sealing the set 6-2.

In the second set, it was Tiafoe’s turn to stumble and Kwon seized on his second serve with a series of blistering returns, handing his opponent a bagel to level up the contest and send it into a decider.

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, setting up a date with fellow American Taylor Fritz or Canada’s Denis Shapovalov with a cross-court forehand winner.

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