Stan Wawrinka reached his maiden Dubai final after Nick Kyrgios retired from their semi-final on Friday while trailing 6-4, 3-0.
Wawrinka, who prior to this week had never won a match on either of his previous two appearances in Dubai, entered his 22nd career final and is in search of a 13th title.
Kyrgios, who received back treatment during the match, fought back from a double-break down in the opening set but could not keep up his level and was forced to make the decision to retire after 44 minutes of play.
“Obviously I couldn’t really serve anywhere near my full capacity today. I mean, he was playing great, anyway. He was playing really aggressive off the second shot of his serve,” said Kyrgios after the match.
“I don’t really know how I broke back, to be honest. I was struggling.
“I just put a couple balls in and he made a couple of errors. Yeah, I mean, I was never going to be able to really make too much of an impact in the match with the way I was serving.”
Only two men have managed to win a Dubai singles title in the past seven editions – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. But with Federer missing the tournament due to a knee injury and Djokovic forced to withdraw from his quarter-final with an eye infection, the event will get a new champion on Saturday.
It was a gloomy Friday with an overcast sky and light rain that hit most parts of the emirate.
Kyrgios, who won Marseille last week and was on an eight-match winning streak, had posted three victories over top-10 players in the last seven days and was gunning for a fourth.
Wawrinka, making his first Dubai appearance since 2008, was sharp on his returns from the get-go and a wide backhand from Kyrgios saw the Swiss get two break points.
Kyrgios slammed a 208km/hr ace to save the first and a 195 ace to save the second. He held for 1-0 with an ace as well.
Wawrinka held with a forehand winner which earned him applause from Kyrgios.
Kyrgios sent a sharp-angled forehand wide to face two break points and he double-faulted to get broken in game three.
The young Aussie struggled on serve and an erratic forehand that sailed wide saw him go down a double-break 1-4.
But Kyrgios got one of the breaks back immediately and held for 3-4. He received some treatment on his back during the changeover but did not request a medical timeout.
Kyrgios attacked the net to get a break point in game eight but Wawrinka responded with a 212km/hr ace. The Aussie hit a backhand return winner to get a second break opportunity but Wawrinka ventured up front to save it. Wawrinka mis-hit a forehand to face a third break point and this time Kyrgios did not falter, breaking with an inside-out forehand drive to draw level at 4-4.
A poor forehand unforced error from Kyrgios saw him face two break points and he struck another error to get broken.
Wawrinka got his first set point on a wide forehand from Kyrgios and he took a one-set lead, in 36 minutes, on a long return from his opponent.
Two poor drop shots from Kyrgios and a wide bullet forehand saw the world No33 get broken in the first game of the second set. He was evidently tired and potentially in pain as it was clear he was trying to end the points as quickly as possible.
Some great defence from Wawrinka, topped off with a signature cross court backhand winner helped the Swiss consolidate the break.
A slew of Kyrgios errors gave Wawrinka a second break and the 20-year-old made the decision to retire from the match right after that.
Wawrinka has been in search of his best game from the moment he arrived to Dubai and has been improving with each match throughout the week.
Asked if he feels he has reached his best form yet, Wawrinka said: “Not yet, but I’m in finals so there is one more match to play my best tennis. That’s the most important.
“For sure if you look from the beginning of the week I was not playing great at all. I was trying to find a way. But that’s when I can still improve and I’m happy I did this week, not playing some great tennis, frustrated during matches but still fighting and trying to find solutions to win more matches during the week to play better.
“I started to feel way better already yesterday. I feel that on the court I start to feel better. I know what to expect. I’m moving better. I’m a little bit more relaxed and my strokes are going better.”
And whether he was surprised at how the match ended, the 30-year-old Swiss added: “Yes and no. No, because when you see during the match, you can imagine that it can happen something because he wasn’t really there from the beginning, wasn’t serving his best.
“You never know what to expect, because again, as you see when he broke me back at 3-4 he was playing really well. That’s why I was focused on myself.”
Wawrinka will face Marcos Baghdatis after the Cypriot defeated Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-1.
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