Unheralded Frenchman Ugo Humbert is into the ASB Classic final, after a convincing 7-6 (5) 6-4 win over two-time champion John Isner yesterday.
It will be the first ATP decider for the 21-year-old, who has risen more than 300 places in the rankings over the last two years.
Isner had been imperious throughout the week. Coming into the semifinals he hadn't dropped a single service game (28/28), swatting away all eleven of the break points he faced.
But his game was gradually dismantled by the clinical Frenchman, until by the end Isner was all out of ideas.
"It really wasn't as close as the score indicated, to be honest," said Isner. "He was much better than I was, played with much better energy than I did and I couldn't get anything going, apart from holding serve a few times."
In the course of his victory Humbert achieved a minor miracle - he out-served Isner.
The American regularly leads the aces count at the end of every season, and luminaries such as Roger Federer (among many others) have acknowledged his serve as the best.
It's not just the delivery from a steep height, as when Isner strikes the ball it comes from an elevation of more than 3 metres, meaning opponents have to contend with returns at shoulder height.
It's also the radar accuracy; Isner can place it seemingly at will, at either corner of a service box, like a kid dropping an acorn into a bucket.
But on Friday Humbert bested Isner, not losing a single point in the entire match when his first serve landed.
It was a staggering statistic, as the American went none for 38.
In contrast Humbert was getting some good looks at the Isner serve – apart from the 220km/h rockets – and making some headway.
Ultimately it didn't count for much on the scoreboard in the first set, as the set went to a tiebreak, but it gave the 21-year-old invaluable confidence.
That showed in the breaker.
An angled serve gave Humbert a 4-1 lead, which progressed to 6-3 when Isner netted a forehand.
The 34-year-old Isner saved two set points – with huge second serves – before Humbert closed out the set, forcing an error with a strong serve down the middle.
Isner isn't used to losing tiebreakers – he regularly has the best record on tour – and seemed to be affected early in the next set, as he dropped serve for the first time this week.
Humbert consolidated, then pushed Isner at 2-4 in a marathon game where the American fended off five break points before a tough hold.
But it wasn't enough, as Humbert showed impressive composure to serve out the set, closing out the contest in one hour 21 minutes.
Earlier, Kiwi Marcus Daniell reached the doubles final for the second time, after the Masterton-born Daniell and partner Philipp Oswald beat fourth seeds Austin Krajicek and Franko Skugor 6-2 7-6 (5).
Daniell lifted the trophy here in 2010 – the first ATP title of his career – and will be confident in Saturday's final, after another highly impressive display.
Daniell and Oswald - who first teamed up last September - took the first set comfortably, then stayed strong as the second set turned into a bit of a dogfight.
But they got early momentum in the tiebreak and never relinquished it, closing out the contest in one hour 23 minutes.