World No 15, the second seed this week, sees off Filip Krajinovic in thrilling three-setter to move into Saturday's showpiece
Frenchman Lucas Pouille survives rain and semi-final scare to seal spot in ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final
No 2 seed Lucas Pouille booked his place in the final of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday, defeating Serbian Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 at the Aviation Club.
The Frenchman, one of the last players to arrive this week following his defeat in Sunday’s showpiece in Marseille, looked poised initially for an easy night’s work on Centre Court, cruising through the opening set in 34 minutes.
It appeared even better for Pouille in the fifth game of the second set, when he broke Krajinovic once more to move 3-2 up. He then served for the match at 5-4, only for Krajinovic to rally back and take the tie-break.
However, Pouille responded to win the third set in another tie-break, needing a third match point to round off the contest in two hours and 19 minutes. Already delayed 30 minutes because of rain, the match was later halted several times because of the adverse weather affecting the emirate.
A five-time winner on the ATP Tour, Pouille will now face either Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri or No 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in Saturday’s final. The pair took to court immediately after Pouille's match had finished.
"I was much better first and second set," said Pouille, currently ranked 15th in the world. "I think I made a mistake to 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. He was aggressive. I couldn't put a first serve in. Then in the third, it was very, very close. I'm just very happy I got through this one."
With the victory, Pouille reached his third final in four weeks, while should he win on Saturday, he could break into the top 10 for the first time in his career.
"I know. Of course, I know," the 24-year-old said. "I heard. I'm not watching the ranking, but so many people told me already.
"Well, that's exciting. Playing to reach the top 10 for the first time, of course it's something great. But obviously if I play like this every week of the year, if I'm focused like this and I'm mentally as strong as I am now, I'm sure one week or another I will be in the top 10.
"Tomorrow is not going to be the most important match of my life, but definitely important. I'm just very excited, and that's it. No pressure."
Asked how the rain had affected his concentration throughout the semi-final, Pouille added: "It's not easy, of course. Sometimes it's raining just a little bit, you don't know if it's going to be more or not. You don't know if you're going to keep playing until the end, when you're going to stop.
“Even if you stop, you don't even know when you're going to come back on court. That's tough. But it's for both players. I guess it's not a problem."