Jarkko Nieminen makes good progress in Sydney
Finnish tennis No.1 is into semis in the singles and the doubles
Finland's tennis no.1 Jarkko Nieminen, currently ranked 77th on the ATP tables, is now enjoying a very decent warm-up for the Australian Open in Melbourne, which gets the grand slam season under way from next Monday.
Nieminen, who had to go through qualifying to make the tournament draw, progressed into the last four at the Apia International tournament in Sydney today at the expense of Bobby Reynolds of the United States, another qualifier, who had earlier knocked out the 2nd seed John Isner of the U.S. in a major upset.
Nieminen won handily in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, in just over an hour on court.
He broke the American's service on no fewer than five occasions, with two losses of his own.
Nieminen had made it into the quarter-finals by beating the 8th seed Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic (ATP-31), with the Finn coming through on this occasion 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-1.
A week ago in Brisbane in another warm-up tournament for Melbourne, the Czech was the better of the two, winning in straight sets, but this was a speedy revenge, in a match played in awkward blustery conditions and bright sunshine, causing problems with service for both men.
In the second round encounter with Stepanek, Nieminen will have been particularly pleased with the way he recovered after losing a tight second set to breeze through the third. The win also snapped an annoying four-match losing streak to the Czech player.
In the semi-final, Nieminen will meet yet another qualifier, in the shape of Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who put out third-seed Richard Gasquet of France to progress.
Former World No. 13 Nieminen reached the Sydney final three years ago, unexpectedly defeating the then world No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals before falling to David Nalbandian.
The 2012 tournament has not exactly been a seeder's dream - the defeat of top-seed Juan Martin del Potro by Marcus Baghdatis means that the last four will contain no seeded players whatsoever.
In the Sydney doubles, Jarkko Nieminen and his Australian partner Matthew Ebden also progressed into the last four with a "back from the dead" victory - 0-6, 7-5, 10-4 - over Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada, the 2nd seeds.
The Finnish-Australian pairing left themselves a real mountain to climb after losing the first eight games in succession, but the victory when it came was a major scalp - Mirnyi and Nestor are doubles royalty; they won last season's closing Masters event and were also victorious in Brisbane a week ago.
Nieminen and Ebden's semi-final opponents will be the all-Australian pairing of Colin Ebelthite and Marinko Matosevic, and if they come through that, the likelihood is that they will face the daunting prospect of top seeds (and the long-standing world No.1 pair) Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Jarkko Nieminen falls short again in Stockholm Open final (24.10.2011)
Jarkko Nieminen on the ATP Tour pages
Jarkko Nieminen website and blog