Adrian Mannarino has done it the hard way this week. After saving four match points in his opening-round victory at the Winston-Salem Open, he has defeated four seeded players to advance to his first tour-level final since 2020.
The 34-year-old Frenchman raced past second seed Botic van de Zandschulp on Friday night, earning a 6-0, 6-4 win in one hour, 15 minutes. With victory in Saturday's final against Laslo Djere, Mannarino would become the oldest champion in the ATP 250 event's history.
"I'm old!" he joked in his on-court interview. "My body is not responding as well as when I was 20, but obviously I'm still up and running well."
Taking full advantage of 29 unforced errors from van de Zandschulp, including four as he broke in the ninth game of set two, Mannarino was in control from the start but had to fight off a strong charge from the Dutchman in set two.
"I think Botic didn't start the match so well but then in the second set it was really tight," said Mannarino, who did not face a break point. "He was serving well, putting a lot of pressure and I was able to keep my nerve and serve well in the key moments. I'm really happy with that."
Now a 10-time singles finalist on the ATP Tour, the Frenchman last competed in a title match in Nur-Sultan nearly two years ago. His lone tour-level singles trophy came in 's-Hertogenbosch in 2019.
Mannarino has moved up 13 places this week to No. 52 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, and would rise to No. 45 with the title.
In the evening's second semi-final, Djere needed nine match points against Swiss qualifier Marc-Andrea Huesler to seal a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) victory. The Croatian lost out on six match points on return in a marathon eight-deuce game at 4-5, then another at 5-6.
When he finally had a chance on his own delivery in the tie-break, he made no mistake as he advanced after two hours, 17 minutes.
"I'm not sure if I ever needed that many match points to win a match," Djere said after the victory. "After like six probably I stopped counting. He was serving really well in those moments and luckily when I got the first chance that was on my own serve, I converted it. I'm really happy about this win. It means a lot to me."
Djere, who saved two match points to edge Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals, is now 5-1 in tie-breaks this week. His victory against Huesler was the first of his five Winston-Salem matches to be decided in straight sets.
The 27-year-old will seek his third tour-level title in his first final of 2022. Saturday's match will also be his first career hard-court final on the ATP Tour.