Andrey Rublev will have the chance to retain his Mubadala World Tennis Championship title against Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday's final after a comprehensive victory over world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz on Saturday.
Rublev, who defeated Andy Murray in last year's final, dominated the US Open champion to claim a 6-2, 6-1 victory in the semi-finals of the Abu Dhabi tournament.
As the top seed, Alcaraz received a bye into the semi-finals and his lack of recent matches showed as Rublev raced into a 3-0 lead. The Russian world No 8 then claimed his second break in the eighth game as Alcaraz attempted to keep the set alive.
After a service hold each to start the second set, Rublev once again seized control, breaking Alcaraz twice and winning five straight games to earn a straightforward victory.
"I was lucky I already played one match and he didn’t play, so that helped me a lot," said Rublev, who beat Croatia's Borna Coric in Friday's quarter-finals. "You could tell Carlos was not at his best today and hasn’t played much tennis but that is what pre-season is about."
Looking ahead to Sunday's final, Rublev said: "Against Stefanos it will be a tough match and he will be the favourite because he has been doing his pre-season here (in the UAE) and is adapted to the conditions."
Alcaraz will return to the court on Sunday for the third-place playoff against Casper Ruud, whom he defeated to win his maiden Grand Slam title in New York. That match will precede the final between Rublev and Tsitsipas.
The 19-year-old Spaniard shot to the top of the world rankings this year after a historic season which comprised five titles including his triumph in New York, but he was forced to end his season early due to an abdominal injury.
As such, MWTC was his first return to a match court since retiring from the Paris Masters quarter-finals at the start of November.
"[Pre-season] started a little bit late for me, I was recovering from my injury and couldn’t do everything from the beginning. Now I’m trying to get ready and it’s all going well," Alcaraz said. "There is still a lot to improve so I need to keep working for the next month."
Tsitsipas 'too good' for Ruud
In the earlier semi-final, Tsitsipas produced an impressive performance to ease past Ruud and advance to the final.
Tsitsipas, the world No 4, was too strong on the day for his Norwegian opponent - ranked one place higher - in a one-sided 6-2, 6-2 victory.
The 24-year-old Greek was outstanding on serve and applied constant, and immediate, pressure on Ruud's service games, breaking in the first game of the match and again in the fifth to put himself in control.
By comparison, Tsitsipas didn't face a singe break point the entire match and he maintained his dominance throughout the second set, earning successive breaks in the fifth and seventh games as part of a five-game run en route to a comfortable victory.
"Overall, [my game] is there," said Tsitsipas, who reached the final on his first appearance at MWTC in 2019. "I was able to close off points at the net and rip forehands from time to time, my movement seems to be good, I'm happy with how I responded to difficult shots, and the serve was good today."
Despite defeat, Ruud will have one more match at MWTC, with the Roland Garros and US Open finalist set to compete in the third-place playoff on Sunday prior to the final.
"Obviously not the result I was looking for but at the same time, I got here after a holiday which was great to recharge, and this is all part of my practice plan to get ready for Australia," Ruud, 23, said. "I get to practice with top players and play a couple of matches, so however it goes, I'm happy to be here and looking forward to another match tomorrow.
"Stef was just too good and better than me at everything," Ruud added. "If he plays like this he's going to be a danger for anyone."