Andrey Rublev came to Dubai with four consecutive ATP 500 titles and 20 victories, seeking the fifth straight title at this level. The Russian beat three rivals to advance into the semis in the desert, facing the Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev in a battle for the final.
The older Russian ended Andrey's streak of 23 ATP 500 wins following a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 12 minutes, controlling the pace in sets one and three to advance into the title match. Karatsev had 41 winners and 38 unforced errors, keeping the points on his racquet and reducing Rublev to 21 winners and 11 unforced errors, which was not enough for a positive result and the fifth consecutive title match at this level.
Karatsev lost serve twice from four chances offered to Rublev, who had to deal with no less than 16 break points, losing serve four times to end his run in the semis. Andrey wasted a game point at 2-2 in the opener and got broken following Aslan's perfect backhand winner that gave him momentum.
Karatsev confirmed the advantage with a hold at love and earned another break with a deep return that Rublev failed to control. Serving for the set at 5-2, Aslan landed a forehand winner to wrap up the opener after 33 minutes, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the clash.
Karatsev produced four fine holds in set number two and had a massive opportunity to move over the top with a break in game seven.
Aslan Karatsev defeated Andrey Rublev in Dubai.
Rublev saved four break chances to remain in touch and secured his first break in game ten when Karatsev sprayed a backhand mistake to take the set 6-4 and force a decider.
At 1-1 in the final set, Aslan seized the sixth break chance when Andrey hit a double fault, opening the lead and increasing it to 5-2 after Rublev's forehand error in game seven. Rublev pulled one break back at love in game eight and created two break points at 4-5 that could have signaled a complete turnaround.
Karatsev saved both with winners and converted the second match point with an ace down the T line for a place in the final.