The Jiri Vesely title charge shows no sign of abating in Dubai.
The Czech qualifier backed up his stunning quarter-final win over World No. 1 Novak Djokovic with another Top 20 victory on Friday, outlasting Denis Shapovalov in a three-hour, 12-minute epic to reach the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 7-6(3) victory.
“I think I’m having a dream run here so far,” said Vesely after the win. “I was just trying my best to really enjoy it as much as possible. It was my first ATP 500 semi-final and the only way to get through is just fight until the last point, and I’m very happy.”
Despite at times lacking some of the consistency that took him past Djokovic, Vesely continued to strike his groundstrokes powerfully throughout against the World No. 14 Shapovalov and now looks to claim a third ATP Tour title against Andrey Rublev on Saturday.
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At No. 123 in the ATP Rankings, Vesely was the lowest-ranked semi-finalist in the 30-year history of the Dubai event, but the Czech showed no signs of being overwhelmed as he won the first eight points of the match on his way to an early 3-0 lead.
In the pair’s first tour-level meeting, Shapovalov began to adjust to the clean, flat hitting of his opponent and the Canadian’s slow start did not prove costly. The 2022 ATP Cup winner found his rhythm to reclaim the break and then convert his second set point to clinch an absorbing tie-break.
Vesely reacted well to dropping his first set since the final round of qualifying, not allowing his 22-year-old opponent to get away. The Czech began to approach the net more regularly and, although Shapovalov fended off the only break point of the set, Vesely was not to be denied as he upped his level to take the second set tie-break and level the match.
A third set full of twists saw both players recover from 0/40 on their own serve before the match headed to a third tie-break. Vesely once again chose the crucial moments to produce his best, opening up a 4/1 lead that proved too big a deficit for Shapovalov to recover.
The Czech’s success was again based on an explosive serving performance. He ended with 15 aces and won 80 per cent (48/60) of points behind his first delivery overall.
Vesely admitted he had not seen his run to the final in Dubai coming. “Sometimes things happen, you don’t even know why,” he said. “I was pretty much down, the last couple of months, and suddenly this happens.
“Sometimes it happens so quick, and the only thing to do is stay patient, work hard every day and just wait for your chances.”
The Czech, who reached a career-high ranking of 35 in 2015, now faces a first ATP Head2Head meeting with second seed Andrey Rublev in Saturday’s championship match after the Russian defeated Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) earlier on Friday.