Nadal downs Nieminen in straight sets en route to semifinals

Updated: January 22, 2008, 9:52 AM ET news services

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Second seed Rafael Nadal wore down Finn Jarkko Nieminen 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open for the first time.

The three-time French Open champion saved two set points before winning the first set and then gradually turned the screw to see off 24th seed Nieminen in two hours, 19 minutes.

"I'm very happy to be in the semifinals in this tournament. It's a very important tournament for me at the start of the season," Nadal said. "I've had a very good tournament so far."

Spaniard Nadal took his time to get into his stride and had to save a break point in the eighth game and two set points in the 10th game before snatching the first set.

"Maybe I wasn't playing my best match, my best tennis today, but it was enough," Nadal said."It's a good moment for me, first semifinals on hard court, Grand Slam."

Australian Open scores

In-progress scores and results from every match from both sides of the draw throughout the event. Complete scores

The only player to beat Roger Federer in the past 10 Grand Slam tournaments, Nadal will face unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the surprise of the tournament so far, who ousted No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (6).

Tsonga, ranked 38th, is playing in only his fifth Grand Slam tournament -- partly because of a rash of injuries -- and had never gotten past the fourth round.

"It's just amazing. I played just unbelievable," the ebullient Tsonga said."I tried to relax. It's a very big event. It's very difficult to stay on this world."

The 22-year-old Frenchman said he will be ready for Nadal.

"I have played him once before at the U.S. Open," Tsonga said. "He is a different player but he has two arms and two legs like me. I will try to stay relaxed on court."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.