Defending champ Djokovic rallies to reach Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar (AP) Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived five match points to Fernando Verdasco and another day of chilly and windy weather to reach the Qatar Open final on Friday.

Djokovic prevailed 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 after the 42nd-ranked Verdasco, a crafty left-hander and former top-10 player, controlled the first two sets until the latter stages of the tiebreaker.

Of the five match points Verdasco held in the second-set tiebreaker, four evaporated on his own mistakes.

''I would like to say tough luck for Fernando, he was clearly the better player for the bigger part of the match and he should have won,'' Djokovic said on court. ''It was just unfortunate.

''It's definitely one of the most exciting matches I've played. I don't think I've saved five match points too many times.''

The second-seeded Djokovic, who didn't lose a set en route to the semifinals, broke Verdasco's serve in the third game of the third set to finally establish what turned into a permanent lead in the 2-hour, 22-minute match.

Djokovic, who only had one unforced error in the final set, sealed the match by breaking Verdasco's serve in the final game.

Verdasco initially trailed 4-2 in the first set, then broke Djokovic at love in the seventh and ninth games to take the set.

Verdasco last played Djokovic in the second round of last year's Qatar Open, where the Spaniard's loss was his 11th consecutive against a world No. 1 player. Djokovic leads their head-to-head 9-4.

Top seed Andy Murray and third seed Tomas Berdych were playing the late semifinal.