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Verdasco reaches final

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Spain's Fernando Verdasco reached his first final since October, beating Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinal at the SAP Open.

The second-seeded Verdasco will attempt to become the first Spaniard to win a title in the Bay Area since Manuel Santana in 1964. Verdasco will meet the winner of a later match between top-seeded Andy Roddick and No. 7 Sam Querrey.

"I was not playing great in the first set but I wasn't missing," Verdasco said. "We were both up and down and when it came to end of the match I tried to push harder, make good returns and send the ball deep. I hit two good forehands and he made a couple of mistakes. He's playing well this year and he's dangerous."

Istomin, enjoying a breakout season, beat a pair of seeded players to reach his first career ATP Tour semifinal. He reached the third round of the Australian Open.

"I've started the season well and I hope that leads to a good year," said the 23-year-old Istomin, who plays next in Marseille, France, before playing in the Davis Cup. "Every match is an opportunity to improve. I can play with these guys; I can battle with these guys."

In a tightly played third set, Istomin said the difference was losing concentration for a couple of points.

"I tried to play the baseline and he attacked," Istomin said. "I lost concentration and that was the match. The serve from a left-hander is so different and his is so good. He does not miss an easy ball. In the future I have to go to the net and be more aggressive."

Verdasco reached his 10th ATP Tour final, and his second on American soil. He won his third tour title in New Haven in August. He is the first left-hander to reach the finals here since Greg Rusedski beat Andre Agassi in the 2001 championship match.

"If I was going to be honest with myself I did not expect to get to the final," Verdasco said. "After the Australian Open I took 10 days off to rest and only practiced three days in Los Angeles before coming up here."

Santana remains a pivotal figure in Spanish tennis and is the tournament director of the Masters Series in Madrid. Verdasco invited him to Wimbledon two years ago as an adviser.

"I never saw him play but everybody tells me he had talent," Verdasco said. "We've had a relationship for many years already."