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Crown for Kei Nishikori

Barcelona: Kei Nishikori claimed his fifth career title as he became the first Japanese to win the Barcelona Open on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Santiago Giraldo.

Nishikori dropped his opening service game against Giraldo, who was facing the biggest match of his career, but quickly found his rhythm and broke back with the Colombian losing his serve on a double fault.

Giraldo was hitting the ball well but Nishikori showed his superiority from the base line as he invariably won the longer rallies and broke twice more to take first set comfortably.

A demoralised Giraldo immediately went 2-0 down in the next set and was unable to find the winning shots that had seen him knock out Nicolas Almagro in the semi-finals. There was no mercy from Nishikori who broke twice more on his way to victory.

On Saturday, Nishikori beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-2, 6-4 to reach the final. Gulbis’ big serve failed to counter Nishikori's faster movement on the outdoor red clay at the Real Club de Tenis.

Down a set, ninth-seeded Gulbis saved seven break points in the second before finally ceding his serve and losing the 85-minute match.

In the other semi-final, Colombian Giraldo beat Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-3, as his Spanish rival suffered a letdown after ousting top-ranked Rafael Nadal. Almagro slumped to his first loss in six meetings with Giraldo - a day after one of his biggest wins when he upset eight-time winner Nadal at the Real Club de Tenis.

“Yesterday’s game doesn’t serve as an excuse,” Almagro said after the loss. “Giraldo grazed perfection today, above all in the first set, and I couldn’t find the answer.” (Agencies)