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Tennis: Raonic, Japan's Nara reach Washington finals

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Seventh-ranked Milos Raonic, coming off his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, powered into the final of the ATP and WTA Washington Open on Saturday by defeating American Donald Young.

The 23-year-old Canadian second seed fired 15 aces in downing 73rd-ranked Young 6-4, 7-5 at the US Open hardcourt warm-up event to reach his 11th ATP final and first since falling to Juan Martin Del Potro last September at Tokyo.

"I have a much better understanding of what I need to bring out myself, especially early in a tournament, to reach the weekend stages," Raonic said.

"Mentally I know what I need to do to compete better in the important stages of matches."

Raonic, seeking his sixth career title and first since last year at Bangkok, will next face the winner of a later semi-final between French sixth seed Richard Gasquet and Canada's Vasek Pospisil, who completed a rain-halted victory early Saturday to advance.

Pospisil, who teamed with American Jack Sock to win the Wimbledon doubles crown, downed Colombia's Santiago Giraldo 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-4, in a match stopped Friday night two points into the final set.

Japan's Kurumi Nara advanced to the women's final by outlasting New Zealand's Marina Erakovic 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. She will face the winner of a later match between Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ekaterina Makarova.

Raonic broke Young in the final game of each set, taking the match after 75 minutes when the American netted a backhand.

"I just put the pressure on his final service games of each set and it worked out," Raonic said.

Raonic, who won 33-of-36 first-serve points in the match and never faced a break point, says he now plays "more simple tennis" and "keeps it basic" rather than going for too much too soon, building confidence for such attacks later in weeks and taking full advantage of his powerful serve.

"I like to play with rhythm and he doesn't allow you to do that," Young said. "I had some chances but they weren't big. With a player like that you're only going to get small windows and you have to take advantage."

Young, who never faced Raonic before, still enjoyed his deepest ATP run since reaching the 2011 Bangkok final, where he lost to Britain's Andy Murray.

Either final opponent will be a rivalry match for Raonic, who won his only ATP meeting with countryman Pospisil last year in a Montreal semi-final after a long junior rivalry.

Raonic is 2-1 against Gasquet, having won last year in a Bangkok semi-final and in a 2012 opener at Cincinnati, but losing their only Grand Slam meeting in the fourth round of last year's US Open as Gasquet made a semi-final run.

Pospisil took the only break of the final set in the last game of his quarter-final after spending only 10 hours away from the courts overnight.

It is the first time Pospisil, 0-4 in prior ATP semi-finals, has faced a tour two-in-one-day situation.

"It's definitely a bit of a speed bump for me," said Pospisil, who won his only meeting with Gasquet last year at Shanghai.

Nara, who won her first career WTA title earlier this year at Rio de Janeiro, dropped the first eight games of the match but battled back to reach her second career final.

"I was panicking first set but I tried to calm down and relax and move quicker and it helped me," Nara said.

Nara, 22, is already projected to jump from 40th to a career high in next week's WTA rankings, surpassing the mark of 38th she set last month.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140802/tennis-raonic-japans-nara-reach-washington-finals-0