<
>

Nadal downs Nieminen in straight sets en route to semifinals

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."

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.