Dubai: Lucas Pouille made it to his third ATP final in four weeks after overcoming Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) in the Dubai Championships semi-finals on Friday.
Pouille, who won in Montpellier and lost in the final of Marseille in the past three weeks, will take on third-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, who ended the dream run of Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri 6-3, 6-4.
Unseasonal rain in Dubai delayed the start of the Pouille-Krajinovic semi for half an hour. Later, there was a seven-minute interruption at 5-5 in the second set, and a 30-minute stoppage when Pouille led 4-3 in the third.
The second-seeded Pouille, expected to rise in the rankings from 15 to the top 10 if he wins on Saturday, wrapped up the first set with his sixth ace.
The Dubai resident, a semi-finalist last year, beat Krajinovic in the Marseille quarter-finals last week. Just when it looked like a much easier outing this time as he led by 4-2 and a break in the second set under a light drizzle, Pouille's solid serve started faltering and his unforced errors began rising.
Krajinovic took advantage and took the set. The decider went with serve and Pouille prevailed in another tie-breaker after more than two hours.
"A loss would have hurt a lot," Pouille said. "I was much better in the first and second set, 6-3, 5-3. I made a mistake to continue playing when it was raining. After that we couldn't even move. It was just serve and return.
"In the third, it was very, very close. I'm just very happy I got through."
Jaziri, ranked 117th, ousted top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round but couldn't match Bautista Agut.
The first Arab player to get this far in the UAE since 2002, Jaziri will rise into the top-100 in the next world rankings as a result of his performance this week.
"It's a tough one. I was not ready today physically 100 per cent like I wanted," Jaziri said. "I gave everything on the court.
"I put a lot of energy to come back in the second set. At 4-1, I had a few opportunities but I went down a little bit physically.
"He made me play every ball. It's not easy to play someone like him. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes.
"I took a lot of confidence from this week, I need to build all the positive things, to continue with positive energy, a positive way to work."
Jaziri threatened in the second set with a 4-1 lead before Bautista Agut hauled the number 117 back in, levelling for 4-4 and breaking for 5-4.
A game later, Jaziri was out of challenges in a match which ended on a debateable shot which was not allowed to be checked by the Hawkeye system.
"It was a very difficult match, I had to fight Malek, who played very well," Bautista Agut said. "I'm just glad to be in the final."
The Spaniard won his seventh career title in January in Auckland.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 11:49 AM