Lucas Pouille reached his third final in four weeks with a 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) victory over Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic in the Dubai last-four on Friday.
The No. 2 seed was broken while serving for the match in the second set but recovered in the decider to wrap up the win in 2 hours and 19 minutes on a rainy day in the Emirates and will be looking to capture a second trophy of the season on Saturday’s final.
Pouille, who won the Montpellier title less than four weeks ago and reached the final in Marseille last week, could break the top-10 for the first time if he triumphs on Saturday.
The Frenchman was playing Krajinovic for the second time in seven days, having also defeated him in the Marseille quarter-finals last Friday.
In Dubai, the 24-year-old Pouille awaits the winner of the second semi-final between Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri and No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Pouille broke for 4-2 with some exceptional net skills and it was all he needed to take a one-set lead over his Serbian opponent. The French world No. 15 broke in the fifth game of the second set and served for the match at 5-4 but Krajinovic struck with his back against the wall and drew level on his second opportunity of the game.
There was a seven-minute interruption as the courts needed to be dried before play resumed. Krajinovic saved a break point to hold for 6-5.
The set went to a tiebreak and it was Krajinovic who first edged ahead 3-1. Pouille got the mini-break back with a return winner but then sent a forehand wide to trail 2-4 at the change-of-ends.
Pouille saved a first set point with an ace but Krajinovic slammed a return winner the next point to secure the second set and force a decider.
The pair stayed neck and neck in the third set before rain suspended play with Pouille leading 4-3. They returned to the court nearly 30 minutes later and the set also went to a tiebreak.
Pouille went up 5-2 showing great athleticism and got his hands on three match points with a big forehand winner. He netted a volley to lose the first and sent a ball long to see the second slip away. But on his own serve, Pouille did not falter as a Krajinovic ball sailed wide to put an end to an intriguing encounter.
“I think that would have hurt a lot to lose,” said Pouille after the win. “I was much better first and second set, 6-3, 5-3. I think I made a mistake continue playing when it was raining. After that we couldn’t even move. It was just serve and return. But he deserved to win the second set. I mean, he put the return in the court. He was aggressive. I couldn’t put a first serve, so…
“Then in the third, it was very, very close. Yeah, I’m just very happy I get through this one.”
Despite the loss, Krajinovic will enter the top-30 for the first time on Monday.
Know more about Sport360 Application
Swiss star Stan Wawrinka withdrew from this month’s ATP Masters events in Indian Wells and Miami on Thursday, saying he needed more time to recuperate as he works his way back from knee surgery.
The 32-year-old world number 12 sat out the second half of 2017 after a knee operation following a first-round exit at Wimbledon in June.
The Swiss ace spent eight weeks on crutches following surgery to repair the damage.
He returned this year but has struggled and was forced to withdraw during a second round match in Marseille last month against world number 193 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus.
Wawrinka said Tuesday he hoped skipping the hard court tournaments of Indian Wells and Miami would enable him to return refreshed for the clay court season.
“Unfortunately I need to announce that I won’t be able to play in Indian Wells and Miami,” Wawrinka said in a statement.
“They are both amazing events but coming back from a big surgery is complicated and after having played a few tournaments I have discussed with my team that it is best for me to build on the progress and go back to practice.
“I’ve enjoyed being back on tour playing matches and this gives me even more motivation to go back on the practice court.
My goal is to find my highest level again and in order to do that I will keep working hard every single day.”
Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion, said he was targeting the clay court season.
“I need to be patient and give my body the time it needs, but as of now my goal is to come back on clay,” he said.
“I love that part of the season and hope to be ready by then.”
Jaziri was under pressure to follow up his sensational win over world No4 Grigor Dimitrov and rose magnificently to the occasion, fighting off all eight break points he faced and controlling both tiebreaks.
“Everyone was waiting for me after beating the number one seed,” said Jaziri. “Everyone was waiting (for me) to go as far as possible. Everyone is pushing (me) to play good, you know, to make bigger results.
“I think it was important to keep calm, only play tennis, enjoy the game, that was the most important, fight for all the points. I think I played really good on the really important points today, the breakpoints and tiebreak. At the beginning of the tiebreak, I put much pressure, more winners on important points. I was really offensive. My serve helped me today in the really important points.”
Second crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis, meanwhile, was beaten 7-6 (2) 6-4 by seventh seed Filip Krajinovic.
Baghdatis held nine break points but converted just one, and that cost him dearly against an opponent who played well under pressure. He held one that would have left him serving for a 4-0 lead in the first set, another to break for 6-5 and serve for the opening set and four more that would have given him a 2-0 lead in the second. He claimed none of those, and dropping his own serve to love at 4-4 in the second set sealed his fate.
“It was a tough match. I faced a lot of breakpoints. I think I played really aggressive on that ones,” said Krajinovic. “I think I play aggressive when I needed. I served well when I needed. That was the key. I stay with him. Yeah, it was a patient game. I’m really happy to play in quarter-final. Beating Baghdatis for me is good win. He likes to play here. He’s played in the semis and final before.”