LOS ANGELES: Top seed and world number four Andy Murray won a curiously topsy-turvy encounter with Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-0 1-6 6-4 on Saturday to reach the final of the LA Open.
Bidding for his first ATP title of the year, Murray recovered from a poor second set to wrap up victory in one hour 38 minutes on the showcourt at the LA Tennis Centre.
The Scot, playing his first tournament since Wimbledon, will take on holder and second-seeded Sam Querrey in Sunday`s final, the big-serving American having battled past Serbian Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 7-6 6-4 in front of his hometown crowd.
It will be the first time since 1999, when Pete Sampras beat fellow American Andre Agassi, that the top two seeds will contest the final.
Murray, oozing confidence with a sparkling array of shot-making and agile movement, broke Lopez in the second, fourth and sixth games to sweep through the opening set in only 24 minutes.
Inexplicably, Murray lost his way in the second set, running out of challenges early on and being broken by the Spaniard in the third, fifth and seventh games for Lopez to level the match.
The tide turned again as Murray broke his opponent in the first game of the final set before taking a 5-3 lead. The Spaniard did well to save two match points on serve in the ninth before Murray served out the match in the 10th.
"Throughout the whole match until the end there, there wasn`t a point where I was playing well and he was also playing well," Murray said courtside.
"The third set was much closer but neither of us has played much since Wimbledon so maybe that explains the inconsistency."
Murray has not lost a set to Querrey in four previous meetings, the most recent at this year`s Wimbledon in the fourth round, but he expected a tough challenge against the local favourite in Sunday`s final.
"He won here last year and reached the final again this year so he obviously enjoys this court and will have a home crowd behind him," the Scot said. "It will be very difficult."
World number 20 Querrey survived a match point in the second set of his semi-final before squeezing through against sixth seed Tipsarevic in a fluctuating encounter.
"That was a close one," Querrey said after coming from 1-5 down in the second set tiebreak before breaking Tipsarevic twice in the final set on a sun-soaked afternoon.
"I came up with good shots (at 1-5 down) and thankfully pulled it out. Today was the best I have played this week.
"A slow start maybe but I will take it," the 22-year-old explained of his three successive three-set marathons. "I`ve been down and I`ve battled back. I`m a little tired but I feel better now than I did yesterday so that`s a good sign."
Tipsarevic, who lost to Querrey in three sets in their only other meeting in 2006, reflected on what might have been after his failed bid to reach a second ATP final this year.
"I was playing great (this week) and I was disappointed the way that it ended, the way I lost with all the chances and opportunities I had to reach the final," he said.
"All credit to him, he managed to get out of two matches which he should have lost," added the Serb, who wore his usual green-and-white prescription sunglasses on court.
"When it`s important, he`s coming up with big shots."
BDST: 2101HRS, August 1, 2010