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Monfils Fights Past Tomic; Nieminen, Dimitrov Oust Seeds

Stockholm, Sweden

Nieminen© AFP/Getty ImagesJarkko Nieminen beat third seed Stanislas Wawrinka on Thursday.

Top seed Gael Monfils narrowly avoided an upset in his second-round opening match Thursday at the If Stockholm Open, rallying to defeat Australian Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4.

World No. 10 Monfils fell behind a break early in the third set, but got back on serve at 4-all and won the final two games to complete a one-hour, 50-minute victory over his 18-year-old opponent. The Frenchman fired 18 aces and saved eight of the nine break points faced on serve.

“It was a tough match,” said Monfils. “Bernard plays good. He’s young, he’s strong, he’s coming in great. He has a tricky game also.

“It’s not easy to come back on tour after struggling with injuries, so to find the rhythm was a bit tough, but still I think I played a tough match and it was great for me today.”

Monfils, who is making his Stockholm debut, has an outside chance of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, entering the week at No. 15 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Year-To-Date Rankings.

Finn Jarkko Nieminen and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov both caused upsets earlier in the day at the ATP World Tour 250 indoor tournament.

Two-time runner-up Nieminen defeated third-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-4, breaking serve three times from five opportunities for victory in 70 minutes. Wawrinka dropped to a 32-18 match record on the season.

The 30-year-old Nieminen reached the final in Stockholm in 2001 (l. to Schalken) and 2006 (l. to Blake). The left-hander is through to his second ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season having also reached the last eight at the PTT Thailand Open in Bangkok (l. to Monfils) last month.

Nieminen will next face Tobias Kamke, the 2010 ATP World Tour Newcomer of the Year recipient, who knocked out German compatriot Sebastian Rieschick 6-3, 6-1 in just 59 minutes.

Dimitrov reached his fourth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season when he ousted fourth-seeded Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.

“I was struggling a bit at the beginning of the set and definitely [Chela] was raising his game and he made great shots here and there,” said Dimitrov. “Got a bit confused, got into his game, and I lost focused a little bit in the second set.”

World No. 70 Dimitrov recorded just his second win in 15 attempts over a Top 30 player this season as he converted six of 10 break points. He improved to an 18-24 match record on the year and goes on to face sixth seed Milos Raonic.

Argentine David Nalbandian needed just 58 minutes to cruise past seventh-seeded Croatian Ivan Dodig 6-1, 6-1. The 2008 Stockholm titlist dropped just three points behind his first serve and converted half of his 10 break points.

The former World No. 3 next meets another former Stockholm champion, American James Blake, whom he has lost to in their two previous meetings. Blake won back-to-back titles at this tournament in 2005-06.

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