UPDATE 4.30pm: Unseeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov is through to his first ATP final after taking down Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in three gripping sets 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5) in 2h 35mins.
Having already taken out the tournament’s second seed Milos Raonic and seventh seed Jurgen Melzer, the 21-year-old had form on his side but faced a rejuvenated Marcos Baghdatis.
It took a thrilling final-set tiebreak to separate the two combatants in what was a fitting end to a closely fought encounter.
“I’m very happy I have to say … especially to start the first tournament of the year. It’s definitely a great feeling,” a grinning Dimitrov said after the match.
After admitting he didn’t feel 100 per cent in his quarterfinal, Dimitrov started strongly to take the first set 6-3 before claiming an early break in the second to lead 3-2.
However, Baghdatis rallied to break back – he then upped the intensity at the back end of the set to take it 7-5.
Despite the former Australian Open finalist having momentum on his side, Dimitrov knew he was still well in the game.
“The third set was just a matter of who was going to take the first opportunity, that first chance,” Dimitrov said.
With neither player able to break the other’s serve, the match went into a deciding tiebreak where Dimitrov produced the big shots when it mattered most.
Down 4-5, the Bulgarian produce an incredible backhand pass that seemingly broke the resolve of his opponent.
“It was pretty big … I knew he was going there and I was on the run. I kind of improvised a little bit. I couldn’t lob so I thought I might as well go down the line,” Dimitrov said.
From there, Dimitrov claimed the final two points of the match with Baghdatis committing consecutive unforced errors.
Dimitrov, whose playing style and mannerisms are often likened to Roger Federer, will meet top seed and defending Brisbane International champion Andy Murray in the final at Pat Rafter Arena on Sunday afternoon.