A qualifier Bernard Tomic has advanced into his sixth ATP final and the first since Acapulco 2016 after a 6-4 6-4 win over the 7th seed Joao Sousa in an hour and 15 minutes. World number 123 will return into the Top 100 for the first time since August last year and he has scored the fourth win over the Portuguese in as many matches, losing just 16 points in his games and fending off all three break points to keep the pressure on the rival.
Sousa was unable to match that pace and he had to play against 10 break points, losing serve once in each set to end his run in the semi-final. Joao had to save two break points in the opening game of the match and he got broken next time around when Bernard converted the sixth break chance overall to move 2-1 ahead.
The Aussie served well by the end of the set and he completed the opener in the 10th game after a forehand error from Sousa. The Portuguese couldn't find his range and he sprayed another error at the start of the second set to lose serve again, drifting further and further away from the finish line.
We saw great serving from both players in the next eight games and Tomic was serving for the victory at 5-4, facing no troubles in the previous nine service games. Out of sudden, he fell 40-0 down and had to give his best to repel those break points with well-constructed attacks, going back to deuce and sealing the deal with another powerful forehand that propelled him into the title match.
The 31-year-old Italian Fabio Fognini is enjoying his best season in a career, reaching his fourth final of the season and an 18th overall following a 6-7 6-0 6-3 triumph over the young American Taylor Fritz in an hour and 49 minutes. Taylor played well in the opening set but he couldn't keep that pace in the rest of the match, losing almost 50% of the points in his games and suffering six breaks from 11 chances he gave to the Italian.
Fabio stayed composed after dropping that opening set, losing just 13 points on serve in the remaining two sets to keep the pressure on Fritz all the time. The American grabbed two breaks in the final set but that wasn't enough for a positive outcome as he got broken three times in a row to finish his campaign in the semi-final.
The opening set saw one loose service game on both sides and it was Fognini who had to dig deep first, fending off two break points in game four with winners to avoid an early setback. At 5-5, Taylor fends off two break points to remain on the positive side of the scoreboard and nothing could separate them until 5-5 in the breaker after two mini-breaks on each side.
Fritz grabbed another mini-break to earn a set point and he forced an error from Fabio to clinch the opening set in some 53 minutes. Fognini was just too good in set number two, winning 25 out of 32 points and storming over Fritz in all six games to serve a bagel and gain a huge boost before the decider.
He broke the American at love in the second game and again in game four when he forced an error from Taylor to increase his lead. Fritz won just two points in his games, suffering another break in game six and receiving a medical timeout on his right foot before the start of the deciding set.
Fabio kept pushing on the return, breaking rival's serve six times in a row to race into a 5-1 lead and he got broken in game seven while serving for the match. Taylor saved two match points on serve in the eighth game and he fired four service winners in a row to bring the game home and reduce the deficit to 5-3, forcing Fognini to serve for the win again.
There were no errors from the Italian this time around, hitting four winners to seal the deal and enter the final where he will seek the fourth title of the season. Semi-final results:
• Jo-Wilfried Tsonga details how Fabio Fognini uses his antics to his advantage• Watch: Fabio Fognini gets brutally honest on if he ever cheated on exam• Bernard Tomic returns to the win column, clinches first title of the year • When Bernard Tomic and Dudi Sela completed a three-setter in 65 minutes• ATP Chengdu: Alexander Zverev wins season's second title• Italian tennis CEO Angelo Binaghi: "Fabio Fognini proved to be very intelligent"