Top-ranked Andy Murray reached his second final of the season with a straight sets victory over seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille at the Dubai Tennis Championships yesterday.
World No 1 Murray stumbled through the opening set before producing a dominant display in the second to secure a 7-5, 6-1 success over the Frenchman.
Murray, who lost the Qatar Open final to Novak Djokovic in January, should feel confident of a 45th career title when he faces the unseeded Fernando Verdasco in today’s final. He leads the left-handed Spaniard 12-1 in their career meetings.
Still, the three-time Grand Slam champion is wary of Verdasco’s ball-striking ability.
“He can generate a lot of power, he can control the ball,” Murray said. “And when he’s dictating the points, he’s one of the best in the world at doing that.”
Verdasco reached the semi-finals in Qatar and even had five match points against Djokovic. But he will need to be more clinical against Murray, who saved seven match points in his quarter-final here against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Murray’s semi-final against Pouille saw both players below their best, which was understandable as they had lengthy and dramatic matches ending late on Thursday night.
“I don’t think it was the best match,” Murray said. “Neither of us served well at the beginning.
“I think potentially matches yesterday had something to do with that, because I think sometimes, if your legs are a little bit tired, that the serve is one of the first things that goes.
“As the match went on, I started serving a bit better and that helped me. The first set was very important to win after how the matches went yesterday.”
Pouille’s quarter-final had ended after 2am and the Frenchman said he didn’t go to sleep until three hours later. This week marks Murray’s return to the court after his fourth round upset by Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open in January. Since leaving Melbourne, the Scot has also been ill with a case of shingles.
This match was Pouille’s first against a world No 1, and his lack of big-match experience showed in the second set.
The first set was competitive, with Murray breaking Pouille’s serve in the final game, clinching it on his second set point with a backhand crosscourt passing shot.
Murray raced into a 5-0 lead in the second set before Pouille held to love to claw back a game. “I think I was a bit too frustrated at the beginning of the second set, and that cost me three or four games,” Pouille said. “Then it was too late to come back.”
Earlier, Verdasco defeated unseeded Robin Haase 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-1, closing out the match by breaking Haase to love.
Verdasco upset sixth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round and No 4 seed Gael Monfils in the quarter-finals.
“It’s an amazing week so far,” said Verdasco , who is looking for his first title of the season and eighth of his career.
“I’m really happy to be in the final, and will try to recover and to be as ready as possible for it.”