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Nieminen Into Final; Benneteau Upsets Baghdatis

Sydney, Australia

Nieminen© Getty ImagesFinland's Jarkko Nieminen reached his 12th ATP World Tour final.

Finnish left-hander Jarkko Nieminen prevailed in the battle of the qualifiers on Friday at the Apia International Sydney, surviving a marathon first-set tie-break to prevail over Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan 7-6(12), 6-3 in the semi-finals.  Levelling the tie-break at 12-12, Istomin went wide on an inside out forehand to give Nieminen the mini-break. He duly served out to claim the set before closing out the match in one hour and 44 minutes.

The 30-year-old Nieminen is into the Sydney final for the second time after finishing runner-up to David Nalbandian in 2009. "I’m feeling really good," said the Finn, who will contest his 12th ATP World Tour Final. "It's just great that I started the year like this. I struggled in the beginning of last year, and this is a really, really great confidence boost for me. I had [a] very good off season, so I'm very happy that it's paying off already now."

Shortly after his singles victory, Nieminen took to the court with Australian Matthew Ebden to defeat Colin Ebelthite and Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 7-6(4) in the doubles semi-finals. He is the first player to reach the singles and doubles finals in the same year in Sydney since Lleyton Hewitt in 2000 (w/ Stolle). The last player to win both the singles and doubles titles in Sydney was Emilio Sanchez in 1992 (w/ Casal).

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In Saturday’s final he will face fellow qualifier Julien Benneteau from France, who defeated 2010 winner Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus 6-4, 6-4. World No. 49 Benneteau, won four of eight break points to advance in one hour and 56 minutes and extend his lead over Baghdatis to 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. The Frenchman, a semi-finalist in 2010 (l. Gasquet), is into his sixth ATP World Tour final and remains the only player this week not to drop a set.

"When I think about that, I'm confident," said the Frenchman, looking ahead to the final. "Also, I think I never beat him on the tour. Each time it was very tough matches, very tight, three sets, long matches. He's a good player. He has some confidence, of course, because he won a lot [of] matches this week. But also he can be a little bit tired. Now it depends on me, how I can manage to find a way to win the first title of my career."

Baghdatis, who opened his 2012 campaign with a quarter-final showing in Brisbane last week (l. Murray), was looking to advance to his 12th tour-level final. However, he admitted he had no answer for his 30-year-old French opponent. "Benneteau played very well today," said the Cypriot. "He was really feeling the ball very well. I was a bit tight again. I wasn't so aggressive. I tried, but my shots were not heavy enough. I had my chances. I didn't take them; he did. Basically that's it."

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