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No. 7 Seed Nieminen Enjoys Safe Passage; Moya Upset

Bastad, Sweden

Thomas Johansson goes on to face fourth seed Tomas Berdych, who he recently lost to in Halle.Arne ForsellThomas Johansson goes on to face fourth seed Tomas Berdych, who he recently lost to in Halle.

Seventh-seeded Finn Jarkko Nieminen enjoyed safe passage through to the second round of the Catella Swedish Open after dismissing Sergio Roitman 6-4, 6-2 in Bastad on Tuesday.

The match was carried over from a rain-hit Monday, with the rain interrupting play when Roitman trailed 4-5 in the first set. It is Nieminen’s second victory over Roitman; he also won in Kitzbuhel two years ago.

World No. 30 Nieminen, who was a semifinalist in Bastad in 2006 (l. to Robredo), now improves to 15-17 for the season. He was a runner-up in Adelaide (l. to Llodra) at the start of the season, before reaching his first Australian Open quarterfinal (l. to Nadal).

Nieminen next will face Belgian Steve Darcis, who knocked out Austrian qualifier Daniel Koellerer 7-6(4), 6-0. After a close first set, Memphis champion Darcis motored through the second, dropping just eight points in total to reach the second round on his event debut.

Thomas Johansson (pictured) came through an all-Swedish encounter against wild card Filip Prpic 7-6(4), 6-3 to reach the second round on his ninth appearance in Bastad. Play was interrupted by rain with the match finely balanced in the first set tie-break at 6-6(6-3) in Johansson’s favor. At the resumption, the 2002 Australian Open champion Johansson closed out the first set before converting one of three break points in the second set to claim victory after 1 hr., 36 min. He goes on to face fourth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych, against whom he recently lost in Halle.

World No. 59 Johansson, who was a semifinalist at Bastad in 1998, is a two-time ATP quarterfinalist at Doha (l. to Murray) and Nottingham (l. to Cilic) this season. The Linkoping-native was also a member of Sweden’s winning line-up at the ARAG ATP World Team Championship in Dusseldorf.

Eighth-seeded Swede Robin Soderling survived a challenging opener against Italian Fabio Fognini, prevailing 6-1, 6-7(4), 7-5 in two hours and 20 minutes. Soderling, a Bastad semifinalist in 2004, improves to a 10-6 event record.

Compatriot Jonas Bjorkman eased through his first round match, dismissing Spaniard Marcel Granollers, 6-3, 6-1. The 36-year-old Swede, who made his event deubt in 1991, announced during Wimbledon that he would be retiring from professional tennis this season. He is making his 11th appearance in Bastad with his best result the quarterfinals in 2003 (l. to Moya).

Meanwhile, Italian Potito Starace saved one match point in the second set tie-break as he upset fifth seed and former champion Carlos Moya 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-4. Converting three of nine break point chances, it was his first victory over the Spaniard since 2005, although his third in total.

The 31-year-old Moya was looking to win his first match since his quarterfinal exit at Masters Series Hamburg (l. to Nadal) having struggled with a right shoulder injury that forced him to miss Wimbledon. The Mallorca native captured the Bastad title on his debut in 2002 (d. El Aynaoui) and has twice since finished as a semifinalist, in 2003 and ’07.

Bastad debutant Starace is currently ranked No. 58 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, 31 places lower than his career-high No. 27 (October 15, 2007). He has not won back-to-back matches on the ATP circuit since mid-April, when he reached the Valencia quarterfinals (ret. vs Robredo). Earlier in the season he was also a quarterfinalist at Buenos Aires and Acapulco, falling to David Nalbandian in both instances.

Starace goes on to face Wimbledon semifinalist Marat Safin, who served six aces as he edged past Spanish qualifier Marc Lopez 7-6(6), 7-5. The 28-year-old Safin, who rose 35 places up to No. 40 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings courtesy of his Wimbledon result, is returning to Bastad for the first time since his debut in 1998 when he fell in the second round (l. to Hrbaty).

Elsewhere, Belgian Olivier Rochus advanced at the expense of Marc Gicquel 6-3, 6-4.
 

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