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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 21:36 GMT
Kafelnikov sets up Verkerk clash
Martin Verkerk of Holland
Verkerk is unseeded in Milan but has reached the final
Saturday's ATP round-up

Milan Open

Martin Verkerk has reached his first major final after defeating Ivan Ljubicic 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7/1) in the semi-finals of the Milan Open.

He will face veteran fifth seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who beat Finn Jarkko Nieminen 7-6 (10/8) 6-3.

Kafelnikov avenged a defeat in last month's Australian Open, despite going a break down in both sets.

The Russian took the first set on a tiebreak, and then overpowered Nieminen in the second set.

"I expect an aggressive play and a good serve from him, he's very talented," Kafelnikov said of his Dutch opponent in the final.

Verkerk had to dig deep to fend off the battling Croatian who forced a tie-break in the final set.

Verkerk started the match sluggishly and it was no surprise when his opponent took the opening set 6-3.

But with his first final in his sights, Verkerk used his powerful serving to level the match at one-set all.

Ljubicic kept up the fight in the decisive set but Verkerk eventually overwhelmed him with his big shots to win the tiebreak 7-1.

"It's amazing, you dream about this but I did not think it could come so soon," Verkerk said.

"It could have ended the other way today, but I am positive on tie breaks."

All the action from the ATP Tour this week

w/e 2 Feb 2003

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