World number one Andy Murray showed no signs of weariness to ease into the Dubai Tennis Championships final where he will be chasing his 45th career title.
The top seed defeated seventh-seeded Frenchman Lucas Pouille 7-5, 6-1 and will face veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco who broke three times in the deciding set to defeat Robin Haase 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-1 in the other semi-final.
Verdasco, 33 and ranked 35th, has managed just one win from 13 meetings with Murray, who will be playing his second final of the season after losing to Novak Djokovic in Doha at the start of January.
“It was tough, it wasn’t the best match,” Murray said. “A lot of mistakes. But there was some good stuff in there, neither of us served well at the beginning.
“I think potentially the match yesterday had something to do with that – sometimes if your legs are a little bit tired, 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.”
For Murray, a leisurely first set took 67 minutes to complete on Friday, with Pouille coming from a break down but losing serve for 4-4 on a double-fault.
Murray broke in the final game to secure the match lead. The Scot then shifted up a gear, and ran out the winner with a 27-minute second set.
Murray’s win improved his 2017 record to 11-2 as he seeks a 45th career title — he lost the 2012 final in Dubai to Roger Federer, his best performance at the event.
The Wimbledon champion returned to the court just 24 hours after his epic quarter-final win over Philipp Kohlschreiber which saw the world number one save seven match points in a 31-minute, 38-point second set tiebreak.
Verdasco won his last trophy 11 months ago on clay in Bucharest and was a Doha semi-finalist at the start of the season.
“It was a really tough match, I needed to be there till the last point,” Verdasco said.
“I’m really happy to be in the final, to win this match.
“I’ll just will try to recover and to be as ready as possible for tomorrow.”
The Spaniard improved his career record over Haase to 4-3 thanks to Friday’s victory which was sealed in two and a quarter hours.
Verdasco recovered from a break in the opening game of the match, winning the first set in a tiebreaker before his Dutch opponent levelled at a set each.
However, Verdasco ran off with the win in the decider, overcoming eight aces while producing just two himself for his eighth victory of the season.