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Monfils Beats Nieminen To Claim Stockholm Title

Stockholm, Sweden

Monfils© AFP/Getty ImagesMonfils captured his first title of the season in Stockholm.

World No. 10 Gael Monfils capped off his debut at the If Stockholm Open on Sunday by claiming his first title of the year with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Jarkko Nieminen. The Frenchman, who has an outside chance to qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, jumps up to No. 14 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings. "My concentration was the key for me today," said Monfils. "I just believed I could win this match.

"Jarkko was playing good when he was in front. Some spots in the match were high level tennis and he was moving well. At the end I think he got a bit fatigued. I played him three weeks ago [in Bangkok], but I was more impressed with him today."

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Monfils relinquished a break advantage twice in the opening set, as the two players exchanged breaks in the first four games. After each settled in on serve, Monfils broke Nieminen for the third time to move ahead 6-5, and served out the set.

In the second set, Nieminen struck first on return, breaking the No. 1 seed to take a 4-2 lead, but was immediately broken back by Monfils. The Finn wasn’t fazed, as he broke Monfils again to lead 5-3 and held serve to even the clash at one set all.

Both players reached the final by winning two matches in three sets, and it was Monfils who stepped up in the final set, winning 75 per cent of his service points. He broke the 73rd-ranked Nieminen twice to take the encounter in one hour and 52 minutes. "Even though the first set was really tight, I felt I had to be more aggressive as it was working well this week," Nieminen said.

"That's when I play my best and I played a really good second set. I continued that for the beginning of the third set, but unfortunately went down a break and got a bit tired and Monfils stayed strong at the end."

With the win, Monfils captured his fourth title and first since winning the Montpellier crown last year (d. Ljubicic). He improved his final record to a 4-11 mark.

Nieminen suffered his third defeat in the Stockholm final after falling in the 2001 and 2006 title matches, and dropped to a 1-10 record in finals. The 30 year old was looking to hoist his first trophy in nearly six years, when he defeated Mario Ancic in the 2006 Auckland final. He was also looking to become just the second left-hander to win a title this season (Rafael Nadal). "It was great to see so many Finnish people," said Nieminen.

"They're always coming here, especially towards the end of the week. It's always really nice when they come to support me, but the way the Swedish people support me is also amazing, as it feels almost like a home court for me."

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