Janko Tipsarevic saved Serbian pride on Saturday as he beat Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-3 to set up a Malaysian Open final against Marcos Baghdatis.
Cypriot Baghdatis, who was runner-up to Roger Federer in the 2006 Australian Open final, had earlier defeated Serbia's second seed Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-1, leaving Tipsarevic with a mission on court at the Putra Stadium
Tipsarevic has played -- and beaten -- Nishikori five times this season on hardcourt, clay, grass and now indoors.
The Japanese number one made a run at another upset scenario in the wake of his semi-final defeat of top seed Nicolas Almagro, but Tiposarevic was having none of it.
The Serb closed out the victory in just under two hours as he saved all six break points he faced to nullify the Nishikori attack.
The winner improved to 43-20 on the season as he enters his third 2011 final after Delray Beach and Eastbourne, both of which he lost.
Tipsarevic said he will have to be at the top of his game to claim the title against Baghdatis who has shown a return to form.
"Both Marcos and I are playing good tennis," said the Serb. "I know I have to play like I did today or better to have a chance to win the final tomorrow.
"Marcos is an experienced player -- he will not give me the final, I will have to take it from him and play aggressively.
"I'm here to win one more match -- if not then it's still been a good week overall."
Baghdatis is turning around a disappointing 2011 season in which he has dropped from 20th to 60th, reaching his first final since Moscow a year ago.
"It feels great to be in another final, but there's still one match to go," he said.
"Today was a strange first set from both of us, struggling with our serves.
"But I stayed calm and focused on what I had to and played the important points better in the first set. I'm happy with the way I fought, and to win without spending too much time on court."
Baghdatis has put in a patchy effort since January but he has not lost a set this week in the Malaysian capital on his way to eliminating two seeds, number six Alex Bogomolov and number four Jurgen Melzer.
Baghdatis, winner of four career titles, took just under 90 minutes for his semi-final victory, advancing to the title match on the first of two match points.
The winner saved five of the seven break points he faced while cracking the Troicki serve six times to take a 2-1 lead in their series, with the previous matches played in 2010.
Baghdatis, 26, improved to 25-22 on the season.