Canadian wild card Milos Raonic, seeking his second title in as many weeks, blasted 23 aces on Saturday to beat US fourth seed Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the ATP indoor final.
The 20-year-old powerful server captured 47-of-55 points on his first serve and denied Fish on five of six brak-point chances to advance just seconds inside of two hours at the 1.32 million-dollar tournament.
Raonic became the first Canadian in 16 years to claim an ATP singles title last weekend when he won the crown at San Jose.
In only his ninth ATP event, Raonic will try to complete a back-to-back title feat against the winner of a later semi-final between a pair of former US Open champions, US top seed Andy Roddick and Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro.
Roddick is seeking his third Memphis title after winning the 2002 and 2009 finals and his 30th career crown overall while Del Potro is making a comeback after missing most of last year with a wrist injury.
In the women's final on Saturday night, Canadian sixth seed Rebecca Marino will try to claim her first WTA title against Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, who won her only prior WTA final in 2009 at Birmingham.
A good performance by the maturing Serb might see him leapfrog Federer into the world number two ranking, for Djokovic is only 85 ranking points behind the Grand Slam record-holder.
Nadal, also a former champion here, made a decision not to enter during the off-season, perhaps indicating a deeper concern these days about the effect of the tour's schedule on his body.
Murray decided not to come just three days ago, stating on his website that he had a wrist injury. This is the second time he has disappointed the tournament, for last year he was caught in a controversy over his suggestion that he used the tournament as a form of training.
Federer is the man most likely to feel at home, for he has an apartment in Dubai, which he uses as a training base. He also participated in the tournament's iconic moment six years ago when he and Andre Agassi indulged in stunt tennis 700 feet above the sea on the Burj Al Arab helipad.
Federer may also be keen to avenge his straight set loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals and to improve his record against one of only two players ever to beat him three times (the other is Nadal).
But even in a field without two of the front-runners there is no guarantee Federer and Djkovic will reach the final.
Among those capable of upsetting them is Tomas Berdych, who beat Federer en route to the Wimbledon final, and Mikhail Youzhny, who has been enjoying a good run in Marseille and has twice been in the final in Dubai.