Posted: Sat January 5, 2013 1:53AM; Updated: Sat January 5, 2013 2:07AM

Defending champ Murray reaches Brisbane final

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Andy Murray
Andy Murray moved a step closer in his quest for back-to-back titles at the season-opening Brisbane International.
William West/AFP/Getty Images

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -- Defending champion Andy Murray advanced to the Brisbane International final after fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori retired with an injured left knee during their semifinal on Saturday.

Nishikori led 4-1 in the first set before Murray went on a roll, winning the next eight games to lead 6-4, 2-0 when the Japanese player called it quits, two games after receiving medical treatment at the end of the first set.

The reigning Olympic and U.S. Open champion will next play Grigor Dimitrov, who is starting to live up to his reputation as a star-in-the-making by reaching his first ATP Tour final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) over 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis.

The 21-year-old Bulgarian, the youngest player in the top 50, raced to a 3-0 lead in eight minutes to establish the only break of the first set and then was up a break in the second before No. 38-ranked Baghdatis hit back to take the match into a third set.

Baghdatis saved a breakpoint to force a tiebreaker and then was stunned when he received a time violation penalty -- losing his first serve -- when he was down a mini break. The ATP has modified its rules for 2013 to make it easier for chair umpires to caution players about slow play and Baghdatis had already been warned for taking too long between service points.

He fought back in the tiebreaker but Dimitrov came up with a stunning backhand which ultimately turned the match.

It was another big win in this tournament for Dimitrov, who changed coaches in the off season and has been working in Sweden. He has beaten second-seeded Milos Raonic and seventh-seeded Jergen Melzer en route to his first final.

He reached semifinals at Queen's, Bastad and Gstaad in 2012 and set he'd set the goal with his new coaches to reach a final in the first week of the season.

"We were actually pretty serious about it, and now that it happened, I was in the locker room and my coach was like, 'Well, I told you so,'" he said. "Definitely every tournament I play of course I want to be in the final."

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