Andrey Rublev recorded his first victory over Alexander Zverev in his sixth attempt Friday to move to within one win of defending his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title.

The second seed, who saved five match points earlier this week against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, had not won a set in his five previous meetings against seventh-seeded German Zverev. However, Rublev flipped the script with a clean-hitting performance at the ATP 500 event, saving one set point in the second set to triumph 6-3, 7-6(9) on his sixth match point after one hour and 58 minutes.

“I was thinking it was going to be a third set. I was preparing mentally for the third set but I somehow saved a set point,” Rublev said. “I had a couple of match points but he played well but in the end at 9/9, I made a good return and then I said ‘Ok, let’s try to make it here’. I won a crazy rally and I was lucky. It was a super intense tie-break.”

Rublev is aiming to become the third repeat champion in Dubai, joining Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. The 25-year-old, who defeated Jiri Vesely in last year’s final, will face third seed Daniil Medvedev in his first championship match of the season.

“We are really good friends, we have known each other since 10 or 11 years old. We have been together since juniors,” Rublev said of his relationship with Zverev. “He was always like an older brother to me and in all the previous matches he beat me. Today when I was going on court I thought I had nothing to lose. He always beats me, so why need to be tight.”

The World No. 6 arrived in Dubai off the back of a disappointing quarter-final exit in Doha last week. He has rediscovered his best form at the hard-court tournament, though, and played with confidence against Zverev.

Rublev flew out of the blocks, breaking in the first game as he took the ball early to force Zverev back. The second seed glided around the baseline to cleanly strike an array of winners down the line, while he committed just six unforced errors in the first set.

After moving ahead, Rublev continued to play aggressively and demonstrated good defence, soaking up Zverev’s heavy-hitting. He squandered one match point on the German’s serve at 5-6 before sealing victory on his sixth match point, after saving a set point at 7/8 in a mammoth tie-break.

Rublev will be chasing his sixth ATP 500 crown and 13th title when he competes in his 18th tour-level final on Saturday. Looking ahead to the final, Rublev is anticipating a hard-fought battle against Medvedev, who leads their ATP Head2Head 4-2 despite losing the past two contests.

“Daniil, he plays really low and flat,” Rublev said. “Daniil is like the one that counterattacks, waits for the right moment. It’s going to be maybe 30 shots [a] rally.”

Zverev was playing in his first semi-final since he suffered his right ankle injury against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros last year. The German is up two spots to No. 14 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings following his run in Dubai.