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Monfils, Nieminen Advance To Stockholm Final

Stockholm, Sweden

Nieminen© AFP/Getty ImagesJarkko Nieminen will hope to overturn a 1-9 record in ATP World Tour finals.

Gael Monfils overcame a set and a break deficit to edge No. 6 seed Milos Raonic 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3 in the If Stockholm Open semi-finals on Saturday. "I had some opportunities in the first set and I didn't make them. Maybe I got a bit nervous at the end of the tie-break," admitted Monfils. "But I kept going, which was good. I felt he was a bit tired and my game plan worked."

Raonic took the opening set after Monfils failed to serve out the tie-break leading 5-4. The Canadian then broke the World No. 10 in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. But serving at 4-3, the 20 year old was broken and Monfils reeled off three straight games to level the match at one set all.

After each player held in their first three service games of the final set, Monfils broke Raonic for the third time, and eventually served it out to claim victory in two hours and 10 minutes.

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Monfils is aiming to hoist his first trophy of the season, having reached the final at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington DC (l. to Stepanek). Raonic lost just his second match indoors this season (11-2 record) after winning his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose (d. Verdasco) and finishing runner-up to Andy Roddick in Memphis.

The 25-year-old Monfils will look to cap off his Stockholm debut with a title when he takes on Jarkko Nieminen in Sunday’s final.

Monfils recently won his first FedEx ATP Head 2 Head meeting against Nieminen in the quarter-finals of the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok. "I expect a tough match from the baseline," evaluated Monfils. "I know he's a great fighter... I need to review my game plan again to be better than three weeks ago."

Should he win the title, the Frenchman, a contender to qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, will move from No. 15 to No. 14 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings. 

The former World No. 13 Nieminen will attempt to lift the trophy at the ATP World Tour 250 indoor event for the first time after falling 2001 and 2006 finals. The Finn defeated James Blake 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-2 to advance.

The 30-year-old Nieminen converted five of 14 break points to claim victory in just over two hours. He overturned a 1-6 record against Blake, including defeat to the American in the 2006 Stockholm final. 

Nieminen, who took out third seed Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round, is bidding to win his second ATP World Tour title, having triumphed at the 2006 Heineken Open in Auckland (d. Ancic). He has a 1-9 record in ATP World Tour finals.

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