By Jake Davies
- Andy Murray  defeats Lucas Pouille  7-5 6-1 to make the 2017 Dubai final
- Murray vs Fernando Verdasco in the showpiece final on Saturday
DUBAI, UAE – Andy Murray came back from an epic battle in the quarter-finals to close out his place in the Dubai final against Lucas Pouille.
Andy Murray  defeats Lucas Pouille  7-5 6-1
Andy Murray made sure he was still in contention for the elusive Dubai Duty Free Championships title when he beat No.7 seed Lucas Pouille in the Dubai semi-finals. The match really illustrated a match of two-halves, where Murray did extremely well to come through the first set in the way that he did and then stormed through his opponent in the second set to clinch the victory.
The key to winning matches against the elite players in professional tennis is not only emphasising the strengths in your game, but also getting the absolute best out of the weaknesses on the match-court. Pouille has won many big matches, including his win over Rafael Nadal at the US Open last year, but what he needs to show is better management of his weaker shot – the backhand.
As many saw in Acapulco this week, where Nick Kyrgios beat the World No.2 Novak Djokovic, the new generation of players have to generate a perfect serving display to beat the top guns, particularly Murray and Djokovic who have the two best returns on tour. Pouille gave Murray way too many looks at his second serve and did not defend that particular shot very well throughout the contest.
Murray sailed into a 3-0 lead and looked in cruise control, but the Frenchman pegged Murray back and eventually took an unexpected break lead after seven games played. Pouille looked formidable when he could dictate with his forehand shot, but Murray, like all the great players tend to do, found a way to eliminate that shot from the equation and concentrated on beating down the backhand shot of Pouille.
The relentlessness of Murray’s attack to the backhand was hard to watch as Pouille would then leave his forehand exposed for the final shot of the rally, where Murray really only played to his forehand when there was less risk involved. It was a smart, tactical display from Murray, who charged through a 6-1 second set to book his place into the Dubai final for the second time in his career.
Andy Murray  vs Fernando Verdasco H2H: Murray leads 12-1
The three-time Grand Slam winner boasts a handsome head-to-head record against his Dubai final opponent Fernando Verdasco. The last time that Verdasco was able to get over the line against Murray came at the 2009 Australian Open, where the Spaniard would go on to make his first and only Grand Slam semi-final. A lot has changed since that match, understandably.
Murray has raised the bar incredibly high in recent years and pushed even greater performances from his counterparts around him. Winning the Olympic gold medal on two occasions and prevailing with three Grand Slams really showcases the vast improvement that Murray has made in his mental and physical game in the last five years.
Murray is the heavy favourite in this match-up against Verdasco – he will never give Verdasco the same, predictable ball to take advantage of. On top of that, Verdasco spends a lot of his matches given away a lot of cheap points, which leads to a lot of easy games being gifted to his opponents. In matches against the very best players in the world you just cannot do that as they will make you pay.
Murray will be buoyed by the fact that he came through the quarter-final match against Philipp Kohlschreiber and will now see this as a perfect opportunity to win a rare title that he has never won before to add to his collection.
Prediction: Murray in two sets.
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