Halle, Germany:Novak Djokovic overcame qualifier Olivier Rochus 7-6 (7), 6-4 on Saturday to reach the final of the Gerry Weber Open, and will play Tommy Haas for his first title on grass.
Haas rallied to beat German compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).
Djokovic squandered a 4-1 lead in the first set, then wasted three sets points at 5-4 _ two of them on forehand errors after long rallies. Rochus, a slightly built player with a deft touch and quick feet, chased down many of Djokovic's shots throughout the match.
"There were a lot of long rallies, I had to work hard for my points, especially on his serve," Djokovic said. "He has a great touch, he barely makes mistakes from the baseline. I served well and I tried to change the pace."
Rochus, who is working his way back after shoulder surgery in October, held two set points in the tiebreaker but Djokovic took risks and fired winners on both.
Djokovic, who lost his two previous matches against Rochus in 2005, appeared unsure of his footing at the start of the second set, slipping several times. In the first, he once ended up on his back under the net.
But the second-seeded Serb broke serve for a 3-2 lead and that was enough to see him through. He double-faulted on his first match point, then saw Rochus smash a winner after the two traded drop shots. But a forehand winner on his third match point gave Djokovic a place in the final of a tournament that serves as a warm-up for Wimbledon.
Djokovic, No. 4 in the world, holds a 2-0 career edge over Haas. He has won two titles this year and reached his second final on grass, after Queens last year.
"I was playing extremely well from the baseline last year, but I am serving much better this year and the serve is very important on grass," he said.
Haas trailed 5-2 in the third set before battling back to advance to his first final since winning the title in Memphis in February 2007.
"It's very special to play such a match and get into the final," Haas said.
Kohlschreiber was runner-up in Halle last year _ after beating Haas in the second round _ and appeared to be heading to his second straight final at the tournament when he served for the match while leading 5-3. But he played a sloppy, error-filled game and dropped his serve, allowing Haas to get back into the match.
"I felt tight, got a bit nervous," Kohlschreiber said. "I made a couple of erros and he returned very well."
"I played outstanding tennis at the start of the match. I am very disappointed but overall it's been a good week," he said.
Haas took command of the tiebreaker by winning the first four points and fired his 15th ace to close out the contest on his third match point. He won despite 35 unforced errors for 22 by Kohlschreiber.
"I was very surprised myself when it happened. I felt he had had the upper hand and that he could have finished me off earlier," Haas said.
"I lost to him last year in similar fashion, I was up 4-1 in the third and still lost. I wanted revenge, it was important for me.
"When I was down today in the third I started thinking of last year year and how I could turn it around," he said.
Haas said the sunny weather _ after days of cloudy and wet conditions _ had created shadows on the court that bothered him at the start of the match.
"I was really irritated, I was thinking of too many things," he said.
The 31-year-old Haas was ranked No. 2 in 2002, but injuries have hampered his career in recent years and he had his third shoulder surgery in November 2007. He is now ranked No. 41, while Kohlschreiber is the top German at No. 24.
But Haas had his best showing at the French Open in seven years when he reached the fourth round, losing to eventual champion Roger Federer in five sets after winning the first two.