SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Unseeded Frenchman Gilles Simon moved into his first Masters Series final in six years after outclassing big-serving Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in Shanghai on Saturday.
The world number 29 faced little pressure on his serve and dominated the match from the baseline with some sumptuous ground strokes as he blasted away the 33-year-old Lopez 6-2 7-6(1) on stadium court.
Simon, whose only previous Masters Series final appearance came in 2008 in Madrid, will face the winner of Saturday's second semi-final between world number one Novak Djokovic and 17 times grand slam singles champion Roger Federer.
The Frenchman knocked out Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka and sixth seed Tomas Berdych en route to the last four in Shanghai and once again took down a more fancied opponent by moving him around the hardcourt with strong groundstrokes.
Lopez, who knocked out world number two Rafa Nadal in the second round, netted a backhand volley to hand Simon the first break of the match in the third game and the tall Spaniard only had himself to blame as a double fault gifted a second break and made it 4-1.
The frazzled world number 21, under pressure from the class of Simon's winners, did finally hold to make it 5-2 but the Frenchman wrapped up the set in 25 minutes with an ace up the middle that swerved teasingly away from the left hander.
The Spaniard mixed up his tactics in the second set, opting to attack the net more to hustle his opponent with some success.
Lopez came through seven deuces in the third game to avoid another break as the pair both held serve with mixed success -- the Spaniard fending off break points, while Simon only dropped four points on his serve in the set.
The pressure finally told on the 33-year-old Lopez, bidding to reach his first Masters series final, in the tiebreak as he crumbled under a mix of double faults, netted returns and wild smashes to lose it 7-1.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien)