Kevin Anderson gatecrashed Kei Nishikori's comeback party by blasting 23 aces on his way to a tight 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(4) semi-final victory at the New York Open on Saturday.
The top seeded South African advanced to meet second seed Sam Querrey in Sunday's final after the big-serving American edged Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3 in the other semi-final.
Japan's Nishikori, in his first tour-level event since incurring a torn tendon in his right wrist last August, swept through his first three matches dropping only one set, but found Anderson was made of sterner stuff than his previous opponents.
Anderson, using his height to great effect on serve, raced through the first set in 22 minutes but Nishikori, cheered on by an enthusiastic contingent of Japanese fans in the modest crowd, fought back in the second.
Neither player could gain an advantage in a tight third set that saw only one break point forged between them, before Anderson prevailed in the tiebreak when Nishikori netted a backhand.
It was, nevertheless, a promising week for Nishikori at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.
He missed two consecutive grand slams -- last year's U.S. Open and last month's Australian Open -- before returning to competition in a Challenger level event on Jan. 23.
Querrey, meanwhile, was ecstatic after his first career victory over left-hander Mannarino in four meetings.
"It feels like I beat Rafa (Nadal) out there," he said.
"That (Mannarino) guy's always been so tricky. I know it's my first time beating him and it feels good. I'm so happy to get through that and be in the final."