Britain's Andy Murray advanced to the final of the ATP Washington Classic, defeating Russian Dmitry Tursunov 6-2, 7-5 on Saturday for a berth in yesterday's title match opposite France's Arnaud Clement.
Eighth seed Murray, a 19-year-old Scotsman playing his first tournament under new coach Brad Gilbert, won the final five games to dispatch seventh-seed Tursunov and earn a chance at his second ATP title.
Murray, set to rise next week from his current career-best 35th in the rankings, won his first title in February at San Jose. Expectations are high thanks to Gilbert, who guided Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick to Grand Slam titles.
Clement defeated former world number one Marat Safin 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) in the other semi-final at the US$600,000 event, winning half the points off the Russian's second serve and taking advantage of 40 unforced errors.
The 57th-ranked Frenchman reached his ninth ATP final but has not won a tour title outside his homeland, winning last February at Marseille as well as in 2000 at Lyon and 2003 in Metz. Clement fancies his chances this time, however.
"I just want to play a good match. I have a good chance to win if I play good tennis," Clement said. "I feel great about my game."
Clement, whose best Grand Slam showing was a runner-up effort at the 2001 Australian Open, defeated Murray last year in five sets in the second round of the US Open.
Murray broke on Tursunov's second and third service games of the match and took the first set in 33 minutes.
Tursunov, ranked a career-high 29th after a runner-up finish in Los Angeles last week, broke Murray in five points to seize a 4-2 lead in the second set.
But the lanky Scot answered, breaking in the ninth game on a powerful backhand that sent the Russian tumbling in a failed bid to return and again in the 11th game with a forehand winner to seize a 6-5 edge.
Murray took advantage of 36 unforced errors, the last a netted forehand to bring his only match point, and triumphed on a service winner in 84 minutes.
Safin became the third ATP veteran in a row that Clement defeated for the first time in his 10-year career, having earlier ended hexes by Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty and Australian former world number one Lleyton Hewitt.
"It feels very special. It's a fantastic feeling for me," Clement said.
Clement, 28, lost his only prior match against Safin in 2001 at Wimbledon but has not dropped a set in four matches this week at the US Open warmup event, rallying from a break down in both sets against Safin.
"It was disappointing," Safin said. "It slipped away from me."
Safin, who won his prior two matches in straight-set tie-breakers, double faulted to give Clement a 6-5 edge, saying after the match he was nervous, and surrendered the set on a forehand winner by the Frenchman.
In the second set, Clement grabbed a 2-1 tie-breaker lead when Safin hit a forehand long and never relinquished the edge, ending matters after two hours and two minutes when 92nd-ranked Safin sent a backhand wide.
"He made a lot of mistakes on his forehand," Clement said.
"Sometimes he can make a few mistakes in a row. I just have to be focused, be very consistent during all the match," he said.