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BRISBANE, Australia – Milos Raonic's title defense ended in a semifinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the Brisbane International on Saturday, a day after his come-from-behind win over Rafael Nadal.
Top-seeded Raonic beat Roger Federer for the title here last year, avenging a loss to the Swiss star in the 2015 final, and appeared to be on course for a third straight Brisbane final when he had set point in the first-set tiebreaker against Dimitrov.
But the 25-year-old Bulgarian held firm, saving that set point, converting his own moments later and then breaking Raonic's serve twice in the second set on the way to a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win.
The No. 17-ranked Dimitrov improved his record to 3-1 in career meetings against Raonic and set up a final against Kei Nishikori, who beat U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the final for the first time at the season-opening tournament.
Nishikori has a 3-0 record against Dimitrov, who lost the 2013 Brisbane final to Andy Murray and was ousted by Federer in his previous two trips to Brisbane.
Wawrinka, who won the Chennai tournament in India in the first week of the season for the three previous years, had treatment on his left ankle in the first and second sets but didn't expect it to cause him any trouble at the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne.
Third-seeded Nishikori took full advantage, converting his first break point in the second set to take a 3-1 lead when Wawrinka missed consecutive backhands. The No. 2-seeded Wawrinka broke back immediately, but dropped his serve again in the next game.
Wawrinka beat Nishikori in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year; his only win in their past four matches. With the result in Brisbane, Nishikori has leveled up his career head-to-head record against the three-time major winner at 4-4.
Nishikori was making his seventh trip to Brisbane, and playing a semifinal for the fourth time. The Japanese star is still chasing his first Grand Slam title, with his best run at a major remaining his appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open final.
U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova was playing unseeded Alize Cornet in the women's final on Saturday night.