Battling Becker reaches first career final

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BANGKOK, Sep 29 (Reuters) Unseeded German Benjamin Becker stunned third-seed Tomas Berdych 3-6 6-4 6-4 to reach his first ATP final at the Thailand Open today.

Having lost in two semi-finals this year, Becker was determined to go through and went all out to stop the 10th-ranked Czech dominating the match.

The 26-year-old German, ranked 79th, fought back after going down in the first set and battled hard for the rest of the match to move a step closer to a first career title.

''It's a surprise, a great achievement for me,'' said Becker.

''Now, I'm going for the title. I'm very excited -- only one more to go now.

''It was a tough match. I struggled with his pace but I put him in difficult positions to stop him from playing.'' Becker will meet sixth-seed Dmitry Tursunov in the final after he overcame resilient Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 4-6 6-4.

In a match crammed with long rallies, there was little between the two, with handful of clumsy errors by the eighth-seeded Verdasco proving costly.

Verdasco countered Tursunov's spin-loaded forehand drives with a string of outstanding returns, winning points from almost impossible situations.

But the Russian's consistency and venomous serves won him the match, which he admitted was one of the toughest he had played.

BIG SHOTS ''When he's down, he goes for the big shots, which is surprising,'' Tursunov told a news conference.

''Most people play safe, they don't go for it like he does.'' Tursunov took a tight first set but Verdasco turned up the heat in the second, pulling off a series of powerful returns to break the Russian at 5-4 and take the set.

''Players like him have a big forehand, they're difficult to play,'' Tursunov added. ''If I didn't make a good return, he'd always come back with a winner.'' In the deciding set, the fiery Spaniard played some sloppy shots after losing his first service game.

His temper flared after every error, with everything from his racket to courtside chairs and television microphones becoming victims of the Spaniard's petulance.

With Verdasco flustered, Tursunov broke him again. Verdasco broke back but the 29-ranked Russian kept his cool to reach his second final of the year.

Asked if he was confident of winning the tournament, Tursunov said: ''If I don't have a heart attack like I almost did in that match, then yes.'' Reuters SSC GC1959

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