Andrey Rublev came to Dubai with four consecutive ATP 500 titles and 20 victories, seeking the fifth straight title at this level. The young Russian beat three rivals to advance into the semis, where he faced the Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev.
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 wasn't enough for a positive result.
Karatsev lost serve twice from four chances offered to Rublev, who had to deal with no less than 16 break points, getting broken four times to end his run in the semis. Andrey wasted a game point at 2-2 in the opener and got broken following a perfect backhand winner from Aslan 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 and Lloyd Harris will play for the title 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. Andrey pulled one break back at love in game eight and created two break points at 4-5.
Karatsev saved both with winners and converted the second match point with an ace down the T line for the final place. World no. 81 Lloyd Harris is the first qualifier in the Dubai title match, beating Denis Shapovalov 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 in two hours and 41 minutes.
Lloyd saved three out of four breakpoints and earned two breaks, prevailing in the deciding tie break to remain on the title course. Both players served well in the first set, and Shapovalov won the tie break 7-5 for an early advantage.
From 4-2 up in set number two, the Canadian lost the ground and four straight games that helped Harris take the set 6-4 and force a decider. There were no break chances in the third set, and Lloyd claimed the tie break 8-6 for a massive celebration and a chance to play for his first ATP crown on Saturday.