Shanghai: Gilles Simon of France powered past Feliciano Lopez in Shanghai on Saturday to reach his first Masters final in six years and seal his return to the world top 20.
The world number 29 won the semi-final 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) to set up a decider against either 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer or world number one Novak Djokovic, who will meet later on Saturday.
Simon has only contested one Masters final to date, when he lost to Andy Murray at Madrid 2008, but he is in a rich vein of form after also reaching the last four in Tokyo last week.
The 29-year-old beat Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and then sixth seed Czech Tomas Berdych in the Shanghai quarter-finals after taking every game in the final set.
On Saturday, Simon picked up where he left off in the quarters, serving up a masterclass in aggressive play early on against Lopez of Spain.
The former world number six broke Lopez`s serve in the third game, drilling a groundstroke directly at the 21st-ranked player as he moved forward, forcing him to parry the ball helplessly against the net.
He then broke at the next opportunity before marching to a 5-1 lead and taking the set.
Lopez opened the second set with an ace, signalling his intent to fight back at Simon`s attacking play.
But he only mustered points in two of his opponent`s six service games, and had to save two break points midway through the set.
But after forcing the tie-break, it turned out to be one-sided as Simon raced to a 4-0 lead helped by a topspin groundstroke which clipped the net before bouncing in.
Lopez replied with an ace, but moments later he set Simon up for match point when he miscued a routine smash. It was all the Frenchman needed to seal the match in 80 minutes.
"I really played what I had to, Simon said.
"I was feeling really good from the baseline. I felt I almost didn`t lose one point from the baseline the whole match.
"It was difficult for him in the first part, then he was extra aggressive, I would say, hitting full power his first serve, second serve, coming to the net every time on his serve.
"But still I was really playing good on my service game. I think I lost, what, seven points in the match. It never happened to me on my serve."
It was a crushing defeat for Lopez, who had also claimed heavyweight scalps on his way into the last four, beating 13th seed American John Isner and ailing compatriot Rafael Nadal, the second seed.
Simon will re-enter the top 20 following his semi-final win, and could rise as high as 15 if he clinches the title on Sunday.