Nadal bounces Nieminen to reach first Aussie semi
Rafael Nadal reached his first Australian Open semi-final with a straight sets demolition of Finland's Jarkko Nieminen on Tuesday.sports Updated: Jan 22, 2008 19:55 IST
Rafael Nadal reached his first Australian Open semi-final with a straight sets demolition of Finland's Jarkko Nieminen on Tuesday.
The mercurial Spanish second seed reacted best on the pressure points to come away with a 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win over the 24th seeded Finn in two hours 19 minutes in the first of the men's quarter-finals.
Nadal will now play either unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Russian 14th seed Mikhail Youzhny in the semis.
"I am very happy to be in the semi-final. It's a very important tournament for me to start the season well," Nadal said.
"I will be trying my best to continue on in the tournament and I'm playing very well here."
The triple French Open champion has advanced to his semi-final without dropping a set and betters his previous best Australian Open result last year when he reached the last eight for the first time.
The last reigning Roland Garros champion to win the Australian Open was American Andre Agassi in 2000.
Nadal stretched his record over fellow left-hander Nieminen to 4-0 and was always in control after the Finn wasted two set points in the 10th game of the opening set.
"He had set points against me in the first set and he had a good chance with the second serve. He missed the return but he played great today and he has started the season very well," Nadal said.
The Spaniard has the possibility of claiming the world number one ranking off Roger Federer at this year's tournament and is on course to face the top seed in Sunday's final.
Federer could lose the position he has held since February 2004 if he fails to beat James Blake on Wednesday and misses the semi-finals, while Nadal goes on to win the title.
The Swiss star, as defending champion, has so many rankings points to defend here while Nadal, a quarter-finalist last year, has relatively few points to carry-over.
It was the furthest Nieminen had advanced at the season-opening major and capped a strong start to the 2008 season after he finished runner-up to Frenchman Michael Llodra at this month's Adelaide ATP event.
Nieminen, in his 12th season on the men's tour, had two set points at 15-40 in the 10th game but wasted both opportunities to seize the opening set.
He pushed a forehand well wide and netted a backhand to lose his chance and was broken in his next service game for Nadal to go on and take the set on his second of three set points.
The Finn went down a double-break early in the second set but broke back with a forehand winner in the sixth game, but Nadal broke him a third time to take a two sets lead.
Another mistake from Nieminen netting an easy forehand gave another break to Nadal in the second game of the final set.
Nieminen couldn't deal with the pinpoint placement of Nadal's groundstrokes and he was broken a sixth time in the match to give the second seed a 5-1 lead.
Nadal claimed the match with a smash on his first match point.