Nieminen eyes finals win over Nalbandian
SYDNEY / AUCKLAND
Finnish underdog Jarkko Nieminen will try to beat David Nalbandian for the Sydney International title to enjoy a boost to morale ahead of the Australian Open.Finnish qualifier Jarkko Nieminen has vowed to arrest a horrendous finals record in the decider of the Sydney International on Jan. 14 and build some momentum for his Australian Open encounter with David Nalbandian.
Nieminen, who beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 7-6 6-3 in the first semifinal on Jan. 13, will face French journeyman Julien Benneteau for the Sydney title and hopes to improve his poor run of one win from 11 finals.
Benneteau, who stunned Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 6-4 in the other Sydney semi-final, is also no stranger to big stage letdowns having lost all five of his previous finals.
Nieminen said he had been overmatched in his title games and that his poor record was not a concern.
“It’s not the best, but I haven’t felt like the finals have been a big thing for me,” he said. “At least half of those losses I didn’t have any chances. I had Federer twice, a few matches in which I basically got destroyed. I was just simply the second best player of the week. I tried my best. Obviously it hasn’t been enough to win more titles, but hopefully I can take one more tomorrow.”
Nieminen said Nalbandian would be a tough draw at Melbourne Park but it could have been a lot worse.
“Nowadays he is always a big question mark,” Nieminen said.
“When he’s playing his best tennis he’s obviously still one of the best players in the world, but he hasn’t been as solid recently as he was during his best years.”
Benneteau, who drew Slovakia’s world number 100 Karol Beck in the first round for Melbourne, is 0-4 in head-to-head battles against Nieminen. “I’m confident but I’ve never beaten him on tour,” Benneteau said. “Each time it was very tough matches, very tight, three sets, long matches.”
The final game of the Frenchman’s encounter with Cypriot Baghdatis on Friday was a thriller, with eight deuces and lasting 15 minutes.
“It was a little bit epic,” he said. “I think for people who follow me in France on live scores or on TV, on the Internet .... I’m pretty sure they were a little bit nervous. It was not good for my father’s heart.”
Compiled by AFP and Reuters reports by the Daily News staff