Shanghai: Andy Murray pummelled Japan`s Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-0 to reach the final of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday and will complete a stunning Asian hat-trick if he beats David Ferrer on Sunday.
Nishikori, playing in his first Masters Series semi-final, lacked the firepower to trouble the British world number four who continued his charge through the Asian swing which has already earned him back to back titles in Bangkok and Tokyo.
Earlier in the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre, world number five Ferrer beat fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-7 6-3 6-3 -- coming from a set behind for the third day running.
Murray was cool and composed in his demolition of unseeded Nishikori, taking complete command after breaking serve in the third game of the 56-minute encounter under the night sky.
Should he beat Ferrer on Sunday, Murray will climb to third in the ATP rankings, pushing 16-times grand slam champion Roger Federer down into fourth -- his lowest ranking for eight years.
"I can`t finish number two or one so it`s just a goal I have for the end of the month," Murray, who has never finished a year higher than fourth, said.
"It would be nice to finish the year off at number three if I can. It`s not the ultimate goal, but it`s a step in the right direction."
His immediate focus, however, is on Ferrer, against whom he boasts a 4-3 career record.
"David is always tough to play against. He`s number five in the world," Murray, unbeaten since losing to Rafa Nadal in the U.S. Open semi-finals, told reporters.
"He has a great attitude. He fights well, right until the end in every single match. It`s definitely a match where if I want to win, I`m going to have to play very well."
Despite his defeat the 21-year-old Nishikori can also look forward to a rise in the rankings from his current 47th spot and on Monday will become Japan`s highest ranked player ever in the ATP rankings, moving into the low 30s.
Ferrer is proving himself the king of the comebacks this week and he was at it again on Saturday against Lopez.
The tenacious baseliner struggled to come to terms with the attacking Lopez in the opening set although he did squander a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak.
However, he began to grind down his 30-year-old opponent and after levelling the match he made the decisive break in the third set when Lopez made a costly error when serving at 3-4.
"Maybe today I played the best match of this week," Ferrer, who was beaten by Murray in the Tokyo semi-finals last week, told reporters. "When I lost the first set, I tried to forget the tie-break and I tried to focus again. I played better in the second and the third."
Ferrer said he would need to go up another level to get the better of Murray and win his first Masters Series title.
"Andy is playing amazing," said the world number five.
"I know every week is different. But tomorrow I need to improve my game to win against Andy. He`s a top player, and I need to play my best tennis."