Estoril - Australia's Nick Kyrgios lost his chance to reach a second straight final at the Estoril Open when he went down to a 6-3, 7-5 defeat to Nicolas Almagro on Saturday.
The semi-final victory by the experienced Almagro set up an all-Spanish final against Pablo Carreno Busta, who took full advantage of a serving collapse from Benoit Paire to post a 6-3, 6-3 success.
Carreno Busta benefitted as his French opponent dropped serve seven times.
Kyrgios came into his match with the 71st-ranked Almagro as a heavy favourite after dominating opponents all week as he returned to the event a year after losing the final to Richard Gasquet.
"It was tough conditions, he played better and I didn't serve great. But this was only my first week on clay," Kyrgios said. "I played two solid matches, so it's not too bad.
"I fly to Madrid now for the Masters, but I'm not expecting too much."
Almagro has dedicated much of the last few seasons to coming back from injury.
But the 30-year-old is now in the position to earn a 13th career trophy if he can get past Carreno Busta as the compatriots play for the first time.
Almagro came out ahead after a run of three service breaks and then earned a break for 6-5. He advanced in the next game on the first of three match points.
Kyrgios was competing in his fourth semi-final of 2016 having only stepped onto clay for the first time this year as the start of Roland Garros approaches on May 22.
"Today was a really tough match against one of the most important players on the tour - he is the future," Almagro said.
"He plays very aggressive and can do whatever he wants with the ball. The wind made it difficult, but I'm very happy.
"I tried to play my game with intensity, I was very focussed. All I could do was fight, fight, fight."
Carreno Busta will be involved in his second career final.
The Spaniard constructed his second straight victory over Paire to put himself into possible title position after reaching the Sao Paulo final last February, where he lost to Pablo Cuevas.
Paire made a brief last stand by breaking as Carreno Busta served for victory, but the triumph was short-lived as the 50th-ranked Iberian broke straight back to earn victory.
"He was better and it was too windy," was Paire's short, sharp analysis of his loss.
"It was very hard to play well. Congrats to him, now he can fight in the final."
Carreno Busta advanced with modest form, striking five double-faults and finding a mere three aces. He lost serve on four occasions.
The Spaniard, who is seeking the first trophy of his career, denied Paire a first ATP semi-final since Tokyo more than six months ago.