Tsitsipas sets up Kukushkin decider in Marseille
Stefanos Tsitsipas' fine start to 2019 continued on Saturday as he eased past David Goffin and into the final of the Open 13 in Marseille.
The Greek reached the semi-finals at the season-opening grand slam in Australia - beating Roger Federer en route to the last four - and is now in with an excellent chance of landing his first ATP Tour title of the year.
In his way stands Mikhail Kukushkin, a 6-4 6-4 winner against French wildcard Ugo Humbert.
The Kazakh was first to secure his place in the final and Tsitsipas joined him by edging out Goffin in a tight first set before running away with the second to complete a 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 triumph.
Goffin will rue not taking the opener, breaking for a 6-5 lead only for Tsitsipas to hit back immediately to set up a tie-break he won with ease.
It proved a pivotal moment as Tsitsipas rode the momentum to secure victory in 69 minutes.
"I found rhythm in the worst possible moment," Tsitsipas told the ATP Tour's official website. "I found my rhythm and I found my game when he served at 6-5. I felt comfortable on the returns and the momentum was on my side."
The 20-year-old is excited at the prospect of claiming a second ATP Tour triumph, his first having come in Stockholm last year.
"It is important to win titles. Titles mean a lot," he added. "[Titles] won't come to you. You have to work hard to get them.
"There is no better feeling than winning a title. It feels amazing."
Tsitsipas expects a difficult test against the experienced Kukushkin, though, against whom he holds a 1-0 win-loss record.
"Mikhail is also in good form, he has been playing good tennis," said Tsitsipas.
"He seems like he is doing well, so I am going to have to deal with it. It is not going to be easy, I can promise that."
For Kukushkin, Sunday's contest will be his first tour-level title match for over four years.
A solitary break secured him the first set against Humbert and two more in the second saw him home in an hour and 33 minutes.