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Japanese wild card, Nieminen ease into semis; Ancic withdraws

10/10/2008 - Tennis

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.

"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."

The 18-year-old Nishikori will play Robin Soderling on Saturday.
The fourth-seeded Soderling, the last Swede in the main draw,
defeated fifth-seeded Rainer Schuettler of Germany 6-2, 7-5.

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.

Roger Federer withdrew from the tournament last week, leaving
seventh-ranked Nalbandian as the top-seeded player. Defending
champion Ivo Karlovic skipped 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."