David Ferrer solidified his bid for a place in the year-ending World Tour Finals with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 win over Gael Monfils in the Austrian Open semi-finals on Saturday.
The Spanish top seed, who lost the Vienna title match a year ago to Andy Murray, won 12 of the last 14 points to see off French crowd-pleaser Monfils after two hours of battle, including an opening set of 75 minutes.
The sixth-seeded Monfils was competing for the first time since back trouble struck him at the US Open.
“This was my toughest match this week and I had to play my best tennis of the week to win it,” said Ferrer.
“Gael is an unbelievable, charismatic player and a good friend.”
Ferrer improved in the sprint for a one of the remaining two spots at the eight-man ATP World Tour Finals next month in London and currently stands in provisional eighth place.
The Spaniard has now put 1200 points of daylight between himself and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, trailing on provisional ninth.
Ferrer will play at home next week in Valencia, where he can add further points at another 500 series event.
“I’m not classified yet for London, but this is a big step. The most important thing was that I played well,” added the Spaniard.
“I was out for three months with an elbow injury but I’m playing well. It would be a bonus for me to be there in London, but the goal now is to win tomorrow.”
The tireless 33-year-old will bid for his fifth title of an injury-hit season when he faces American outsider Steve Johnson in Sunday’s final.
The world number 47 reached his first career final with a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) defeat of Ernests Gulbis.
“Ferrer has been a top 10 player for a decade,” said Johnson.
“It’s gonna be fun. He’s a bulldog and will compete to his best ability.
“I respect everyone but fear no one. I’ll play my game and take it to him, Every time you enter an event you expect to win.
“This is my first chance to do that, so I want to go out and play good tennis.”
Johnson earned his third victory over Latvia’s Gulbis, taking 91 minutes to set up a first match with Ferrer.
Johnson fired 12 aces and 27 winners, committing just a dozen unforced errors while the patchy Gulbis was plagued by 29 miscues.
Gulbis, ranked 117th after once standing in the Top 10, had looked to be on the road to rehabilitation after injuries this season.
The Latvian had earlier this week dispatched two of the biggest servers in the game – third seed John Isner and number seven Ivo Karlovic.
Johnson was appearing in his third semi-final of 2015 after knocking out second seed Kevin Anderson in the quarter-finals.