Jarkko Nieminen faces tough ask in first round of Australian Open
David Ferrer is ranked 7th in the world
Finland's tennis No.1 Jarkko Nieminen will have to be at his very best in the first round of the Australian Open, this year's first Grand Slam tournament, which gets under way in Melbourne next week.
When the men's singles draw was made on Friday, the unseeded Nieminen learned he will have to face Spain's David Ferrer, seeded 7th and also ranked 7th in the world.
Ferrer is not likely to be short of match practice, either: as the top seed there, he has made it to the final of the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand, where he will face David Nalbandian of Argentina on Saturday.
Nieminen (ATP-39) and Ferrer have not met at tournament level before.
Both have reached the last eight in this event, and coincidentally both in the same year, 2008, when Nieminen went out to Rafael Nadal and Ferrer lost to Novak Djokovic.
If Nieminen upsets the form-book and takes out Ferrer, in the 2nd round he will possibly have an easier time of it, as he would then face either Michael Russell of the USA (ATP-103) or Australia's Matthew Ebden (ATP-185).
Nieminen is placed in the first quarter of the draw, meaning that top-seed Rafael Nadal also lies in wait, though not until the quarter-finals stages.
Nadal is looking to collect his fourth successive Grand Slam title after wins in 2010 in Paris, Wimbledon, and at the US Open.
If he manages it, it will be the first four-in-a-row since Australian Rod Laver collected a "perfect slam" by winning all four major events in 1969. Laver also performed the feat as an amateur in 1962, and together with American Don Budge (1938) is the only man ever to have recorded this level of tennis domination in a single year.
On the women's side it has been achieved by three players, most recently by Steffi Graf in 1988, when she also collected the Olympic gold medal in Seoul.
Nadal starts his campaign with an encounter with Brazilian Marcos Daniel, currently ranked 96th in the world.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Nieminen steamrollered by imperious Roddick in Paris (11.11.2010)
ATP: Jarkko Nieminen
Jarkko Nieminen official website