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Nieminen Relishes Match To Remember

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nieminen© Getty ImagesJarkko Nieminen posted his first Top 10 win since February 2011.

One day after knocking out Milos Raonic, Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen battled past fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4) on Thursday at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to set a quarter-final confrontation with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals. 

“This was one of the matches that I will remember,” said the 31 year old, who snapped a 17-match losing streak against Top 10 players and advanced to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 quarter-final since 2006.

Nieminen expressed that he “couldn’t play much better tennis” than he did in the first seven games, allowing him to take a set off of the Argentine for the first time in five career meetings. 

The Finn was unable to captalise on his three break points in the third set and missed a match point at 4-5 in the third set, but maintained his composure. 

“I knew it would be difficult to finish this match, but at the same time I didn’t do anything wrong so it was still easy to stay positive,” he explained. “Already this year I have won many matches and many tight matches, so I feel pretty [confident] when I get in the tight situations. I’m not panicking.”

Buoyed by the spectators’ support, Nieminen broke for a 6-4 lead in the deciding tie-break and closed out victory after two hours and 37 minutes as del Potro hit a forehand wide.

“Obviously when it gets this tight, there’s a lot of drama, like when it’s 7-6 in the third,” he said. “I felt great on the court. It’s the last match of the day. It’s fully crowded. The crowd was so into it. They kept clapping. Always when I felt tired after a long point, they were almost like standing and clapping.  That helped me. I really enjoyed that moment on the court. It was unbelievable to play there.” 

The former World No. 13, who turned pro in 2000, shared that his many years of experience were proving beneficial to his recent form. “I really try to enjoy every moment. That gives kind of relaxedness to my game.  I think I’m also better aware of doing the right things on the court. I really know my weaknesses and strengths, and I can play better with my strengths, aware of how my opponents are playing.” 

Nieminen has beaten Djokovic once before, four years ago in Sydney, but trails the Serb 1-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

“It’s always nice to challenge the top players in the world, if I can do it,” he said. “Obviously, doesn’t matter how I play, it will be a big challenge. I obviously am enjoying the moment. Play centre court against him. I just try to keep up this good form.”

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