Top-ranked Argentine Diego Schwartzman praised rising Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime after beating the 20-year-old in a tight semifinal to reach the final at Cologne 2.
Schwartzman, seeded at No. 2, needed three sets to beat fifth-seeded Auger-Aliassime 6-4 5-7 6-4 and progress into his third final of the season.
World No. 9 Schwartzman broke Auger-Aliassime in the opening game of the match and then didn't allow the Canadian a break point in the rest of the set to win the opener.
Schwartzman appeared to be cruising toward a comfortable straight-set win but Auger-Aliassime recovered from a 5-3 second set deficit to force a decider.
But Schwartzman kept his focus as he broke Auger-Aliassime twice and lost his serve once in the decider to book the final spot.
"Felix is a great player. Maybe at the beginning he was [making] a few mistakes. I took the chance to break in the first set and in the second set I was playing solid, then he started to play so aggressive [with] many winners… It was really tough at the end,” Schwartzman said in an on-court interview, per the ATP website.
Schwartzman faces No. 1 seed Alexander Zverev in the final
Home favorite Zverev is aiming to win back-to-back titles in Cologne as last week he beat Auger-Aliassime in the final of the first Cologne edition.
"He is the undefeated man [in Cologne] so far,” Schwartzman noted. “Maybe tomorrow is the first match he is going to lose. I don’t know. He is a great player. He always likes to play in Germany. He has a lot of titles here in his country, so it is going to be very tough. He has confidence and he is playing very good tennis, so I have to rest and be ready for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Zverev handed a straight-set defeat to world No. 46 Jannik Sinner 7-6 (3) 6-3 to reach the Cologne 2 final.
"I was playing a player I just lost to at Roland Garros. That was still in the back of my head. I was not going to lose today," Zverev said in an on-court interview.
Zverev, who lost to Sinner a few weeks ago the French Open, believes the bright future is ahead of the Italian.
"He is an up and coming superstar. I think he is going to be Top 10 very shortly. I think he is going to be competing for the biggest tournaments in the world,” Zverev claimed.