The Duty Free Dubai Tennis Championships will feature world number one Andy Murray and former top-tenner Fernando Verdasco with the odds favouring the Briton who has only lost to the Spanish veteran once in 13 previous encounters.
Verdasco claimed his place in the final first
He has not seven lives, he has 700 lives. ThatÈs why heÈs No 1 in the world
A former world No 7, Verdasco is making his first appearance in an ATP World Tour 500 Series hard court final his hoping to improve on his poor record against Murray.
"Andy is No 1 in the world what can I say about him?" the 33-year-old said when he learnt that his opponent for the title would be the Briton. He defeated Dutchman Robin Haase 7-6(5) 5-7 6-1. "I only beat him once. When we play tomorrow, hopefully, two.
"He was unbelievable yesterday in the quarter-final against Kohlschreiber, [saving] seven match points. Unbelievable, but you know how Andy is. He has not seven lives, he has 700 lives. ThatÈs why heÈs No 1 in the world.
"I respect him so much, but I will try my 100 per cent to win the tournament."
Murray showed no after-effects from his grueling victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber but he didnÈt have it all his own way during the opening set of his semi-final against Luca Pouille of France, who also survived a tough quarter final which didnÈt finish until 1.46 am Friday.
Murray tool an early lead but was hauled back by Pouille, the seventh seed, who took advantage of some weak serving from the top seed and favourite. However, Murray recovered to take the opening set in the12th game and then ran off with the second to clinch his place in the final after one-hour and 34-minutes, 7-5 6-1.
It is MurrayÈs second final in five attempts losing the 2012 edition to Roger Federer.
Reflecting on his week, Murray commented: "I think the first three matches here, I played pretty well. I donÈt think tonight was the best standard, really, but I played some good stuff this week.
"Obviously, you want to play your best tennis at the grand slams, but still, this is my third tournament [of the year], IÈm in my second final, which is good. It would be nice to pick up a win tomorrow, keep the momentum going into Indian Wells and Miami, which is a couple of tournaments where, especially Indian Wells, I really want to try to have a good run.
"ItÈs one of the Masters Series I havenÈt done well at over the years. Really want to make sure that I do well there this year."
His only immediate concern is Verdasco in SaturdayÈs final and he is expecting a tough match.
"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," the Scot said. "And when heÈs dictating the points, heÈs one of the best in the world at doing that.
"So obviously, I need to try to stop him from doing that, which means dictating a little bit more myself, getting up on the baseline and, yeah, hopefully, be a little bit sharper at the beginning compared with today."
Down in Mexico, Rafa Nadal and Sam Querry will spar off for the Mexican Open title.
Nadal, who hasnÈt lost in Acapulco winning the title in 2005 and 2013, will face a strong challenge from the big serving American who ousted Nick Kyrgios 3-6 6-1 7-5 while the Spaniard made light work of the third seeded Marin Cilic 6-1 6-2.
"I have to be playing well to win like this against a player like Marin, so I’m pleased with the performance," said Nadal. "I’m happy with my focus in important moments, saving break points with good shots," Nadal added. "I enjoyed the atmosphere here, so it’s great for me to be in the final."
The Spaniard wonÈt be underrating Querrey who arrived in the semis having ousted Belgian David Goffin, the fourth-seeded defending champion Dominic Thiem and Kyrgios. "Sam is playing great, beating Goffin and Thiem. He’ll be coming into the match with a lot of confidence," said Nadal, who has won all four of his prior meetings with Querrey.
A victory would give the Spaniard his first hard court title since Qatar in 2014.