Japanese wild card, Nieminen ease into semis; Ancic withdraws
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Japanese wild card Kei Nishikori, ailing with a sore throat and aching knee, reached the Stockholm Open semifinals Friday when second-seeded Mario Ancic withdrew because of fever.
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"I wanted to play the match somehow," Nishikori said. "Now I've got a day to rest and I'm sure I can play. It's the semifinals. It's big for me."
Nishikori has jumped 212 spots to a No. 77 ranking since the beginning of the year. He won his first ATP title at Delray Beach, Fla., early this year to become the first Japanese singles winner on the tour since 1992.
Third-seeded Jarkko Nieminen beat Oscar Hernandez 6-1, 6-4. Nieminen will face top-seeded David Nalbandian in the first semifinal. Nalbandian ousted seventh-seeded Albert Montanes 6-4, 6-1 for his third consecutive straight-set win in the tournament.
"It's going to be tough [against Nieminen]," Nalbandian said. "He's different. He's a lefty. But I think if I play good I have lot of chances. I'm going to play him the way I've been playing all week."
Nalbandian broke for 5-4 in the opening set with a cross-court backhand and then comfortably served out the set. The seventh-ranked Argentine reeled off six straight games after trailing 1-0 in the second set, winning the match when the Spaniard's lob sailed long at match point.
Nieminen, making his ninth straight appearance at the Royal Tennis Hall, broke the Spaniard twice in the first set. The Finn broke again to lead 1-0 in the second, but Hernandez broke back to 4 all. Nieminen broke again in a 12-point game to lead 5-4 and then held to win the match.
"I played perfect tennis in the first set," said Nieminen, who reached the 2006 final and the 2007 quarterfinals in the Swedish capital.
"In the second set I felt pain in my ankle which I hurt twice in 2006. I hit a double fault and he broke to 4-4. But I managed to win the next long game and end the match in a determined way."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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