Mackenzie McDonald is through to his first ATP Tour final at the Citi Open after winning a hard-fought battle against former champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Saturday. 

The American arrived in Washington, D.C. looking for momentum, having not won back-to-back tour-level main draw matches since the Australian Open in February. McDonald found that and more in the American capital, toppling Nick Kyrgios and 13th seed Benoit Paire on his way to the semi-finals. 

He had to face 2015 Citi Open champion Nishikori, a player McDonald has idolised since childhood. McDonald fired 30 winners, including 21 off of his forehand, to outlast Nishikori after two hours and 43 minutes.

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“I’m super happy with my level right now and how I’m playing. I think I’m staying focussed throughout these matches which is really key, and something I don’t think I could have done a couple of years ago,” McDonald said in an on-court interview. “I’m super excited to be in a final, my first one. And here in the States, in D.C., it’s something special.”

McDonald will face #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner for the first time on Sunday for a shot at his first ATP Tour trophy. Sinner edged past 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby 7-6(2), 6-1 earlier in the day to advance. 

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The No. 107 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings had to stay focussed to keep Nishikori at bay, as the pair traded eight breaks of serve between them across the first two sets. Every time McDonald took the lead, Nishikori was right back in it as the Japanese player covered the court and changed direction of the ball to keep McDonald under pressure. 

After reeling off the last four games of the second set to level the match at a set apiece, the momentum was firmly with Nishikori. The Japanese player created three break points across two service games in the final set, but McDonald found some big serves to keep himself in the contest. McDonald finally broke through late in the set, dodging a tie-break as he ripped a forehand return to force an error from the Nishikori racquet to seal the victory. 

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