Two-time LA Open champ Sam Querrey will next face Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis
Two-time Los Angeles Open champ Sam Querrey came back from a break down in the second set to reach his third straight final at his home event with a defeat of Rajeev Ram 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
The southern Californian will be bidding to join Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors as three-time champions at the UCLA campus facility when he plays Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis, who put out Australian sixth seed Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-1 in the other semi-final Saturday.
Querrey, winner of 12 straight matches in Los Angeles, and the 22-year-old Berankis have never played. The youngster will be competing in his first final on the ATP Tour, the best ever achieved for a player from his small nation.
Querrey lost serve for the first time this week as Ram, a semi-finalist in two of the last three weeks, finally cracked the code to catch the second seed's serve for a 2-0 lead. Querrey wrapped up the opening set in half an hour.
Querrey, seemingly dis-satisfied with his string tension and calling out grumpily to his coach, rallied to break back in the seventh game en route to a tiebreaker.
He notched 11 aces in victory, along with 38 winners and 31 unforced errors and now stands at 3-1 against Ram.
"It was a tough match, he's a serve-and volley guy and knows how to use his slice. I managed to win by serving well to recover the break.
"There is less pressure on me playing at home, the crowd helps me through. I can't wait to play tomorrow," said Querrey, who won the Los Angeles title in 2009 and 2010 but missed last year while recovering from shoulder surgery.
The American said that he will not take world number 141 Berankis lightly.
"He's won seven matches this week (including qualifying) and is playing well. He hits the ball pretty big, he gets a lot of pop on it. I'll have to be on my best game."
Berankis, a former world junior champion, took his first set against Matosevic in 45 minutes, opening the floodgates as the first qualifier to reach a final at the event since 2009.
Berankis clinched his record-setting victory on the second of three match points, ending with 18 winners and four breaks of his Australian opponent.
Berankis did not lose a set all week in his main draw matches and got through qualifying with only one set dropped a week ago.
"I saw Marinko play this week and felt I could get onto his second serve and take advantage. I tried to do that from the first point and it worked," he said.
The winner ran to the stands to embrace his coach in the moment of victory. The pair share a father-son bond after the players' best friend - his coach's son - was killed in a traffic accident seven years ago.
"It was the most important thing for me that my coach was able to fly in for this match," said Berankis, now 5-1 on the season.
Berankis said that his accomplishment will no doubt make news at home even amid the London Olympic excitement.
"This is an unbelievable thing for us, we are a small country and have some tough conditions. I'm happy about this."
The best previous results for Berankis were a pair of quarter-finals in San Jose in 2010-11.
Berankis is also attempting to become the second qualifier to win an ATP title this year after Finn Jarkko Nieminen accomplished the feat in Sydney in January.