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Murray sets up big clash with Djokovic as Konta bows out

By Eleanor Crooks

Andy Murray will face long-term rival Novak Djokovic in the final of the Qatar Open today following a straight sets victory over Tomas Berdych.

The world number one had won his last six meetings with the Czech, including last year's Wimbledon semi-final, and there seemed very little chance of that run ending in Doha yesterday.

He won with relative ease, outclassing his opponent to wrap up a 6-3 6-4 success in an hour and 43 minutes.

Murray went on court in the knowledge defending champion Djokovic was awaiting the winner and showed no signs of repeating the stuttering start he made to his quarter-final win over Nicolas Almagro the previous day.

After the first three games went with serve, the Scot broke to make it 3-1 and from there he never looked back as he produced one of 10 aces to clinch the opening set with just 48 minutes on the clock.

Berdych, coached by former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, showed some resistance early in the second set but could not capitalise on a couple of break points in the second game before immediately failing to hold his own service.

The pair then exchanged breaks before Murray saw the set out to set up a tantalising final with Serb Djokovic, who saved five match points on his way to defeating Fernando Verdasco earlier in the day.

Murray, who won the tournament in 2008 and 2009, has now recorded 28 consecutive victories.

"I want to try and keep it going, I feel a little bit like this year's a fresh start," he said.

"The end to last year was a great way to finish the year but it's great to be through to the final here and a great match against Novak to look forward to. It's been the perfect week to get ready for the Australian Open."

Defending champion Djokovic lost the opening set and looked like a beaten man when he trailed 6-2 during the second set tie-break but somehow dug in to deny 33-year-old Spaniard Verdasco and secure a memorable 4-6 7-6 (9/7) 6-3 success.

"I can't describe it with one word," Djokovic said. "I would like to say tough luck for Fernando, he was clearly a better player for a bigger part of the match and he should have won this match.

"I can't say I did things the right way on those match points, he had some mid-court forehands, he should have finished it off, he didn't and I just hung in there. I just tried to make him play an extra shot, he was playing very well.

"It's definitely one of the most exciting matches I've played.

"I don't think I've saved five match points in my life too many times."

Johanna Konta's hopes of beginning 2017 with a second WTA Tour title went up in smoke as she was beaten by Katerina Siniakova in the Shenzhen Open semi-finals.

Briton Konta, the world number 10, was the highest seed left in the tournament but she did not count on a stunning performance from the world number 52 who earned a 1-6 6-4 6-4 win.

Belfast Telegraph

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