Murray and Verdasco reach St Petersburg final

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ST PETERSBURG, Oct 27 (Reuters) British second seed Andy Murray saved a matchpoint and overcame a controversial line call to beat Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-2 5-7 7-6 in the semi-finals of the St Petersburg Open today.

Youzhny served for the match at 5-3 in the decider but the 20-year-old Scot broke back, then saved a matchpoint in the next game to level at 5-5.

With the third seed clearly upset with himself for the lost opportunity, Murray took his chance, clinching victory after two-and-a-half hours when Youzhny double-faulted on matchpoint to throw away the tiebreak 7-1.

''The matchpoint was huge,'' said Murray, who will face Fernando Verdasco in tomorrow's final after the Spanish sixth seed overwhelmed Croatian qualifier Marin Cilic 6-2 6-3 in the second semi-final.

''When I hit my shot I thought I had lost it because I thought the ball was going out, Youzhny probably thought the same thing too.

Then, he started to get nervous and made quite a lot of mistakes in the end,'' the world number 16 told reporters.

Murray, making his first appearance in Russia's second city, broke Youzhny twice at the start of the first set to take a one-set lead but the match turned on its head late in the second.

The players were on serve until the Russian broke Murray's serve for the first time with the help of a controversial decision.

BAD CALL On set point, Youzhny's shot was clearly out but was ruled in.

Murray was outraged by the decision but could do little to change the outcome as he had already used both his Hawk-Eye challenges in that set.

''He hit the ball off the net and it was going unbelievably slow and when the ball bounced I knew it was out so I didn't try to hit it back,'' Murray said.

''But I had no chances left to challenge the call so there was nothing I could do. It was just a bad call.'' The 25-year-old Muscovite looked on course for victory after breaking in the fourth game of the decider but lost his grip on the match after failing to convert his chances.

World number 30 Verdasco just had too much experience for the 102nd-ranked Cilic, who was playing in only the second semi-final of his career after upsetting world number four Nikolay Davydenko in the second round.

''It's true, his ranking was low but he knocked out top seed Davydenko, so I wasn't taking him easy,'' said the Spaniard.

Looking ahead to the final, he said: ''He (Murray) beat me the only time we played on the (ATP) tour but I beat him once in a challenger event, so you could say we are even 1-1. I think I have a good chance tomorrow, so if I lose I'll be mad for sure.'' REUTERS AB BD2340

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