Murray to face Youzhny in Valencia Open final
Top-seeded Andy Murray held off fourth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the Valencia Open final against Mikhail Youzhny on Saturday.
Unseeded Youzhny defeated second-seeded Nikolay Davydenko 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in an all-Russian semifinal.
Murray, coming off a six-week layoff because of an injured wrist, will go for his fifth title of the season on Sunday.
Youzhny was through to his third final in his last four tournaments. He was runner-up at the Japan Open, and won his hometown title at the Kremlin Cup.
"He's played very well the last couple of months," said Murray, who won their only prior meeting at St. Petersburg in 2007, which was also on hard court. "It's going to be difficult, he played well today."
Murray struggled with his serve but took advantage of Verdasco's own shaky service game to break for 4-3 in the first set and hold on.
Verdasco, the 2004 champion, started the second set with a break of his own in the first game, and evened the set score when Murray double-faulted.
In the deciding set, Murray made the decisive break for 4-2 against the Spaniard and advanced to his seventh final of the season.
"I managed to stay strong because he hit some really big winners, and put some pressure on me," said world No. 4 Murray.
Davydenko led Youzhny by a set and 4-4 but lost the next two games to be forced into a third set.
There, 23rd-ranked Youzhny broke Davydenko's first two service games and went on to clinch his fifth final of the season.
Davydenko, ranked No. 7, could have clinched a berth in the eight-man ATP Tour finals in London this month by winning the Valencia Open, but was confident he will still qualify during the Paris Masters next week.