Vienna - Year-end ATP finals candidates Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro will square off in Sunday's Austrian Open title match with each hoping to improve his standing and qualify for November's season wrap-up in London.
Top seed Tsonga is one victory away from a perfect debut at the Stadthalle in the Austrian capital after beating German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) in a semi-final lasting 82 minutes.
Number two Del Potro hammered 18 aces as he won a battle of serve with South African Kevin Anderson 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Tsonga stands provisional eighth in the race for the November 20-27 ATP World Tour Finals in London and can only improve that position if he wins the trophy.
Del Potro, poised to leapfrog 11th-placed Frenchman Gilles Simon, is also poised on the brink of possible qualification with this weekend and two more weeks of regular season ATP play remaining.
Tsonga admitted he had it tougher than might be expected against the number 182 Brands, a 24-year-old competing in only his second ATP career final after Munich in 2009.
The German saved two set points in the first and took the second set into a tiebreaker.
Tsonga, who has been bothered by slow starts in his matches this week, was relieved to go through.
"It was tough but I did it in the end," said the Frenchman. "In the second set I had a lot of chances.
"I also played well in the tiebreaker. It was a good win for me.
"Today I started better and played better. I moved better and played a great match. The second set was really tight and I had chances on his serve which I could not take.
"I hope tomorrow I will start well and play well. This final is not a dream it will be tough, Del Potro's a good player.
"I expect myself to play my best tennis, it will be a good challenge for me. I've never beaten him (0-3) so I now have another chance to do it. I'll keep pressing and play my game."
Del Potro will be playing his first final since winning Estoril on clay six months ago.
Del Potro's 18-ace count was almost matched by Anderson, who struck 17 in a tight match lasting nearly two and a quarter hours.
The winner broke three times while losing serve twice as he posted his second win of the season over Anderson, after a victory in the Delray quarter-finals in February on the way to that title.
"I've not done well at the Masters events and the grand slams this year, so this is an important win for me," said Del Potro, winner of 45 matches this season.
"It was really tough until the last game. I kept trying and trying and finally I got my chance in that game and I took it.
"He has such a strong serve; it was tough to do anything against it. It means a lot to go to another final. Estoril seems a long way away.
"I don't know if I'm playing at my best, but I'm working hard. I want to end this season well and start 2012 on a good note."
Del Potro, competing in his sixth 2011 semi-final, will be playing in his 13th career final in Vienna and is aiming for his 10th title.