Doha, Qatar: When Corentin Moutet landed in Doha on the New Year's day for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open qualifiers, playing in the final surely would not have been in his plans. If at all, it probably was a wild dream, but it now is well and truly alive and on Saturday he will play his first ATP Tour final, against Andrey Rublev.
The French qualifier showed his counterpunching skills and stunning forehand winners in abundance as he defeated top seed and three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in just over two hours.
Moutet was hanging in there when Wawrinka took the first set with ease and waited for an opening in the second with the scores level at 5-5. It was then he seemingly switched on to high-octane mode as all of a sudden stunning shots, forehand winners mostly, started flying from his racquet.
Within five games, all of which went Moutet's way, the match turned on its head. Wawrinka, from looking to win the match, was desperately trying to save it. Though former world No.3 Wawrinka stemmed the rot to make it 3-1 in the third set, Moutet had got a firm foothold on the match and he never let it go.
Moutet had to play three sets in the semifinal just a few hours back, but he never showed any weariness and never stopped running.
Wawrinka surely had more power in his serves, as his 12 aces suggest, but he also had too many unforced errors - 32 to just 13 from Moutet.
Besides Wawrinka had no answers for the 20-year-old's 18 forehand winners, a number of them played inside out.
"I didn't expect that," said a beaming Moutet after the victory. I tried my best but honestly, I didn't expect that, thank you very much.
"I was ready for my first round of qualifiers when I came in here.
"I was tired after the first match today, but I took a nice nap. I think I was ready for this match I had to fight with all my qualities. The opponent was really great and he has given so much for the game of tennis. I had to fight and try my best."
Moutet also had plenty of support from the crowd and was thankful for that.
"I really feel like I am at home. There are a lot of French people in the crowds. And the other people from here or I don't know where you are from, but thank you very much."
And if he can produce what he did against Wawrinka, the crowd in Doha on Saturday will surely be rooting for the man playing his first-ever final.