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Nadal Surges Into Semi-finals; Nieminen Upsets Melzer

Bangkok, Thailand

Jarkko Nieminen© AFP/Getty ImagesJarkko Nimeinen also reached the Delray Beach semi-finals in February.

ATP World Tour Champion Rafael Nadal produced another devastating serving display as he surged into the PTT Thailand Open semi-finals Friday. The Spaniard surrendered just three points behind his first serve as he cruised past Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-3 at the ATP World Tour 250 hard-court tennis tournament in Bangkok.

Nadal picked up where he left off in his opening match of the tournament, in which he dropped only two points on first serve. The top seed, whose much-improved serve was inspired by American golf legend Jack Nicklaus, broke serve three times from eight opportunities as he raced to victory in 71 minutes.

The Spaniard is through to his 11th tour-level semi-final in what has been a phenomenal season. The 24 year old is currently on a nine-match winning streak, after completing the career Grand Slam at the US Open (d. Djokovic) last month.

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Nadal next will face fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who battled past fourth-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in just under two hours. World No. 53 Garcia-Lopez withstood 10 aces from Gulbis in the first set as he clinched a one-set lead in the tie-break, but immediately fell down 1-5 in the second set as the Latvian forced a decider. The Spaniard regrouped quickly, though, and broke serve to go 3-0 up before going on to seal victory.

The 27-year-old Garcia-Lopez is through to his first ATP World Tour semi-final since reaching the Eastbourne final (l. to Llodra) in June; he also reached the last four in Estoril (l. to Gil) and improved to a 24-19 match record on the season.

Talented Finn Jarkko Nieminen proved his best days aren’t behind him, when the World No. 60 knocked out a Barclays ATP World Tour Finals hopeful, Jurgen Melzer, 6-3, 7-6(4).

“I’ve had a new coach since Wimbledon, working with Jan de Witt,” explained Nieminen, who lost 13 points on serve and hit eight aces. “We’ve worked on a lot of things, especially the serve, and everything takes time to take shape.

“I’m 29 years old and have been doing the same things for a long time, so it takes a while to implement changes into my game but I think I am serving better than ever now. I’m feeling very good and it’s very satisfying to get through to the semi-finals here.”

Melzer, currently No. 11 in the year-to-date South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings, dropped to a 4-6 mark in ATP World Tour quarter-finals this season. Six singles places are up for grabs at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London from 21-29 November.

Nieminen will next face 2007 Bangkok finalist Benjamin Becker. The German needed just 58 minutes to beat his compatriot Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2. The pair also met in the US Open first round.

Becker, 29, has lost in two ATP World Tour semi-finals this year at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle (l. to Hewitt) and the UNICEF Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. to Tipsarevic).

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