Novak Djokovic saved three match points to maintain both his unbeaten start to the season and his perfect record against Gael Monfils in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Djokovic, who has not lost a singles match since the ATP Finals in London in November, had beaten Monfils in all 16 of their previous professional meetings dating back to 2005.
It looked like that record would come to an end when Monfils took advantage of an unusually-lacklustre display from Djokovic to ease through the first set and then led 6-3 in the second-set tie-break after saving a succession of set points.
But Frenchman Monfils, who had been looking for a third straight ATP Tour title, was unable to take any of them and eventually double-faulted on set point for Djokovic before wilting physically in the decider.
Djokovic was able to celebrate a 2-6 7-6 (8) 6-1 victory, setting up a final date with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: “It was truly an escape. He was clearly a better player for two sets, I was fortunate to work my way back in the second set.
“Gael I think is playing as well as he’s played ever, it’s very, very difficult to go through him. What he did today for two sets was unbelievable. I’m sorry for him but great effort.”
Tsitsipas had earlier booked his spot in the final for a second straight year with a 6-2 6-3 victory over surprise semi-finalist Dan Evans.
The Greek, who successfully defended the title in Marseille last weekend, lost to Roger Federer 12 months ago.
The 21-year-old reigning ATP Finals champion will be bidding for a sixth career title on Saturday.
“I just managed to stay solid throughout the whole match. Didn’t have massive breakdowns, I just played good quality of tennis which I enjoyed,” Tsitsipas said.
“I didn’t really feel much stress out there on the court. I’m really impressed by the quality of my game today and I hope to bring the same and possibly better in the final.”