The second seed Grigor Dimitrov came through a tough semi-final but will not be facing, as expected, the top seeded Hubert Hurkacz in the final of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.
Dimitrov succeeded in battling past Karen Khachanov, the third seed from Russia, recovering from the loss of a tight opening set to secure his allotted place in the final 6-7(3) 6-4 7-6(5) after nearly three hours of intense play.
His success now means the Bulgarian has reached the title round of three of the last four tournaments he has played, winning 15 of his last 17 matches.
His only two losses in the last few months came to Novak Djokovic (in the Paris final) and to Portugal’s Nuno Borges (at the Australian Open).
Dimitrov is also the first player to reach more than one ATP finals this season.
This was the closest match Dimitrov has played with the Russian in four encounters with the Bulgarian winning all four.
“I just kept on fighting, kept on staying in it—it’s really all I can do in moments like that,” Dimitrov said afterwards. “He kept putting a lot of pressure on me, hitting a lot of good shots, and I was constantly on the back foot. It was just a few points here and there, that’s all.
“I just kept on staying there and kept on believing.
“He totally outplayed me in the first set,” Dimitrov continued. “I was making a lot of mistakes. I kept on fighting, kept on staying. It was the only thing I could do in moments like that. I was a little down on myself as my shots weren’t there and not accurate enough and he kept on putting a lot of pressure behind me and hitting a lot of good shots, so I was constantly on the back foot.
“A few points here and there made the difference. Nothing else. The match was such a mental battle for both of us. I kept on staying there and believing and I was just trying to win. I am very happy to be in the final. It is important for me.”
In what was a surprising upset, Ugo Humbert defeated Poland’s Hurkacz 6-4 6-4 in just 82-minutes to keep dreams of an overall Franch victory alive, but he arrives in the final in the knowledge that Dimitov has beaten him in their two previous meetings.
For Humbert, seeded four, it is his fifth career final in what was a satisfying victory for the Frenchman over the defending champion.
“It was not easy because I lost to him already three times,” Humbert said. “The beginning was really strong. I got the break and played an amazing match today and I am very happy to be in the final today.
“It is not easy to play against him. Sometimes you don’t get any returns in a game, so you must say, ‘OK, that is it’. You have to stayed focused on your serve.”