Former champion Kevin Anderson of South Africa booked a return to the Delray Beach ATP final Saturday, where he'll face Croatia's Marin Cilic for the crown.
Fourth seeded Anderson defeated US qualifier Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-4 in a battle between two players who enjoyed standout careers in the US university ranks.
Anderson avenged a loss to Johnson in Auckland this season, delivering 13 aces and breaking the American three times to secure the victory in 76 minutes.
"I think from the first game, getting that break was really key for me," Anderson said. "I was really happy with the first four games. I was really capitalizing on his second serves. That set the tone for the match."
Anderson, now a resident of Delray Beach, won the second of his two ATP Tour titles here in 2012. He reached three finals last year but wasn't able to add to his trophy collection.
"I was really happy with the way I executed my serve today," Anderson said. "I've always enjoyed playing here. I'm excited for the final tomorrow."
Anderson had to wait to learn who his opponent would be, after the night semi-final between seventh-seeded Cilic and second-seeded American John Isner was delayed more than two hours by rain.
Cilic fired 12 aces in the one-hour, 25-minute match, which didn't wrap up until after midnight.
Against Anderson, Cilic will be seeking a second title in three straight finals. He lifted the trophy in Zagreb in early February before he was beaten in the final in Rotterdam by Tomas Berdych last week.