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Lacklustre Hewitt into last four at US Open

Hewitt beat unseeded Nieminen 2-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in his sixth straight US Open quarter-finals.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 03:48 IST

A lacklustre Lleyton Hewitt needed five sets at the US Open Thursday to see off unseeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen and reach the semi-finals of the championships for the fifth time.

Hewitt won 2-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. But apart from in the deciding set, when he finally fired on all cylinders, he looked far from convincing against a player who was in unchartered territory.

The Australian will play either top seed Roger Federer of Switzerland or David Nalbandian of Argentina on Saturday for a place in the final. They were scheduled to play their quarter-final in the evening session.

"It's nice to be through to another semi-final. Another tough match. Conditions weren't easy out there," Hewitt said.

"Jarkko's had a great tournament, he's a hell of a player. He gives a lot of the top players a lot of trouble."

Hewitt was playing in his sixth straight US Open quarter-finals, the only man with such a record, as he campaigned for his third Grand Slam title after victories here in 2001 and Wimbledon 2002.

Nieminen was the first Finn to have reached the last eight of a Grand Slam having returned to top form after a broken wrist and a bad stomach muscle strain.

The Australian was an odds-on favourite to go through in a clash of 24-year-olds, and he had early opportunities to stamp his authority, but it was Nieminen who suprisingly grabbed the first break to lead 4-2.

Another break in the next game saw the Finn take a one set to love lead after just 36 minutes.

That slap in the face appeared to yank the Australian out of his lethargy at least temporarily, and and he rolled off the next five games in a row to easily pocket the second set.

Services dominated in the third, but with Hewitt bothered with foot-faulting on his serve, Nieminen seized his opportunity to break for a 5-3 lead and served out to love to take a two sets to one lead.

Hewitt continued to look flat, but he did squeeze ahead 3-0 in the fourth to give himself some breathing space and shortly after he levelled the set scores sending the tie into a decider.

Last year's runner-up broke the Nieminen serve again to open the fifth and he finally let rip with a trademark "C'Mon" - his first of the match.

Another yell of self encouragement two games later celebrated a second service break for the third seed and he was home and dry from there on in.

Asked who he would prefer to play in Saturday's semi-finals, Hewitt said he would look forward to the challenge no matter who won.

"They're both tough players. I lost to Nalbandian in Davis Cup a few weeks ago, but Roger is obviously the best player in the world just now. It's going to be a tough match either way," he said.

First Published: Sep 10, 2005 03:48 IST