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Muller ends Troicki bid for Sydney hat-trick

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Gilles Muller rode his big serve to a 6-3 7-6(6) victory over defending champion Viktor Troicki in the semi-finals of the Sydney International on Friday, ending the Serb's hopes of an unprecedented third straight title.

It was third time lucky for the 33-year-old lefthander from Luxembourg, who had reached the last four for a third year in a row, and he will face Dan Evans or Andrey Kuznetsov looking for his maiden ATP title on Saturday.

Muller, who has never progressed past the third round at the Australian Open and drew American Taylor Fritz in the first round on Friday, started well and wrapped up the opening set in half an hour with an uncompromising forehand smash.

Troicki stepped up his game and the second set was a much tighter affair but Muller saved the two break points he faced to take it to a tiebreaker.

The third-seeded Serb saved the first match point he faced when Muller netted a return but the world number 34 would not be denied on his second, powering down his 16th ace of the contest to reach the final.

"It feels great, when I came here I wasn't expecting very much because I didn't play very well in Brisbane, I wasn't feeling great," said the sixth seed, who has been suffering from a mystery virus.

"I was expecting to have one or two more matches before the Aussie Open and I'm in the final so it's a great feeling."

British world number 67 Evans stunned top seed and world number eight Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals to set up his clash with Russian Kuznetsov, the final match of the day at the Olympic Tennis Centre.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien)

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