Murray Sets Verdasco Dubai Final Showdown
The World No. 1 is targeting his first ATP World Tour title of the season in his third tournament appearance. The Scot began the year reaching the final in Doha (l. Djokovic), before a fourth round showing at the Australian Open (l. M. Zverev).
Both players endured prolonged quarter-final contests, with Murray saving a career-high seven match points to edge past Philipp Kohlschreiber in two hours and 54 minutes, but the Scot was able to recover to quickly build a 3-0 lead over the Frenchman.
Seventh seed Pouille, now without a set in four matches against Murray, was able to claim four successive games, which included a blistering forehand winner down the line to cap a 30-shot rally. 2012 finalist Murray struck the decisive break at 5-5 and continued on to win seven straight games to put the match beyond doubt.
“It was tough. I don't think it was the best match, but there was some good stuff in there, middle and towards the end of the first set,” said Murray. “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.” Thursday's triumph over Kohlschreiber included a record-equalling second set tie-break, which Murray won 20/18 following 31 minutes of play.
Murray, through to his seventh final in his previous eight tournaments, holds a dominant 12-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against his final opponent Fernando Verdasco. “He's had a pretty good start to the year. Obviously tough draw in Australia (1R l. Djokovic), but he played well in Doha. Had the match points against Novak. Couldn't quite get that one done, but I think he played very well there.
“Obviously this week he's had some good wins. I think where the balls are fairly heavy here on a quick court, he can generate a lot of power, he can control the ball. And when he's dictating the points, he's one of the best in the world at doing that."
Verdasco clinched a place in his first Dubai final with a gruelling 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-1 victory over Robin Haase. The World No. 35 is now 4-3 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Haase, defeating the Dutchman in their past three encounters.
Haase started his first ATP World Tour 500 semi-final with an immediate break. Verdasco attacked any short ball with his trademark left-handed whipped forehand to restore parity and used his main weapon to take the tie-break. Haase once again had an early 3-0 advantage cancelled by the Spaniard, but at 5-5 in the second set he combined astute net play and remarkable retrieving to help level the contest.
With his 21st forehand winner, Verdasco broke for love to open a 2-0 lead in the decider. A last-ditch lob saved Haase from falling behind a double break, before a blistering backhand pass from Verdasco clinched the pivotal advantage.
“I fought and stayed mentally strong after losing the second set. I started to push a little harder, going through the ball instead of going back, trying to be more aggressive, to play on top of the baseline or trying to be even inside the court,” said Verdasco.
“It was a really tough match. I needed to be there until the last point, and I think that game at 4-1 (third set), recovering break points, gave me a push of confidence and energy. Near the end I just played unbelievable. I’m really happy to be in the final, and will try to recover and to be as ready as possible for tomorrow.”
Rohan Bopanna and Marcin Matkowski, playing together for the first time, booked their place in the doubles final with a fighting 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 win over fellow team debutants Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Leander Paes. They will vie to lift the Dubai trophy against Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, after the fourth seeds edged to a 7-6(8), 6-3 win over top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers.