3 March 2017 -- Dubai, UAE: Andy Murray will face Fernando Verdasco in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, after the top seed and world number one overcame seventh seed Lucas Pouille 7-5 6-1, and in a match between two unseeded opponents Fernando Verdasco defeated Robin Haase 7-6 (5) 5-7 6-1. Murray has won 12 of his 13 matches against Verdasco, with their most recent meeting coming in Paris at the end of last season.
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Both Murray and Pouille had been engaged in challenging quarter-finals on Thursday evening, with Murray on court for nearly three hours and Pouille finishing his match at 1.40am. Despite that, Murray made an excellent start and led 3-0, but he failed to maintain his momentum and dropped the next four games. Pouille then held two points for a 5-3 lead but Murray eventually broke back to level at 4-4 in a crucial 14-point game, and broke again at 6-5 for the set. The second set saw a swift execution as Murray powered his way to a 5-0 lead.
"I don't think it was the best match" said Murray, who will be contesting his second final in three tournaments this year after finishing as runner-up in Doha. "A lot of mistakes. You know, there was some good stuff in there, I think, middle and towards the end of the first set. But neither of us served well at the beginning. He didn't make hardly any first serves his first few service games, and I was struggling a bit there too.
"I think potentially matches yesterday had something to do with that, because I think sometimes, you know, 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. Yeah, the first set was very important to win after how the matches went yesterday."
Pouille refused to blame his late night finish on his second set capitulation, saying, "Yeah, of course, I was a bit tired. I mean, he finished late as well, not as late as me. But I knew before going on court that I was going to be tired a little bit. I fell asleep around 5.00am. It was quite late. I think we did all perfectly today to be ready for tonight, but I think this is not the reason why I lost today. I lost the first set because he won a few points that made a difference, and then the second set I got too frustrated to get a chance to win. Against that kind of player, it doesn't work. I think that's it. It's not because I finished late."
In the other semi-final there were several break point opportunities for both players in the first set but just one break each, and the same pattern followed in the second until Haase broke a second time at 6-5 to level the match. In the deciding set, Verdasco established an early advantage by breaking for 1-0, held a further break point to lead 3-0 and then broke again for a commanding 4-1 lead. Although Haase held two break points in the sixth game Verdasco went on to break serve yet again to claim a place in the final.
"After that second set, I start thinking to hit the ball a little bit more, going through the ball instead of going back, try to be more aggressive," said Verdasco. "He was serving really good, I think, the whole match. Great directions, around 190 to 200 all the time, and it was not easy. Even the second serve, it was with a lot of spin and tough to go through the ball and put a good return. So it was a really tough match. Needed to be there, of course, till the last point, and I think that game of course with 4-1 coming back with my serve, recovering that break points, gave me a push of confidence and energy."
Haase admitted that Verdasco came out firing in the third set and there wasn't much he could do.
"He has a toilet break (after the second set), he comes back, and he hit some rockets with new balls. Even on my serve he just went for it. I think I lose the first five, six points without having a chance," said Haase. "So credit for him. Great job. I tried. I kept fighting. I have chances to even break back to go to 4-2, but he was just too good at the end. It's been a very good week, but I could have won today. So now I'm really, really, really disappointed."
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau upset top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers 7-6 (8) 6-3 and will play Rohan Bopanna and Marcin Matkowski in the doubles final. It was the first loss for Kontinen and Peers since October 31st, since when they won Paris, the ATP World Tour Finals and the Australian Open.
"Once again we have enjoyed watching some wonderful matches in which chances went one way and then another," said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers. "We congratulate Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco on reaching the final and look forward to another entertaining match. Although Murray has won most of the matches between them their last match was extremely close and Murray was only able to claim victory 7-5 in the third set. We wish them both well."
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, "As well as a singles final featuring the world number one player, we also have what is certain to be an excellent doubles final featuring the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals champions, our number four seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau."
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which concludes on 4th March, is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.