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Nalbandian first Argentine winner of Sydney ATP title

Monday, January 19, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 11:18 AM

SYDNEY – Fourth seed David Nalbandian became the first Argentine to win the Sydney International ATP title with a fighting three-set victory over Finland's unseeded Jarkko Nieminen on Saturday.

Nalbandian first Argentine winner of Sydney ATP title David Nalbandian of Argentina plays a forehand return to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland during the Sydney

Nalbandian, 27, claimed his 10th career ATP title in 20 finals in winning, 6-3, 6-7 (9/11), 6-2 in two hours 16 minutes.

Nalbandian is heading into next week's Australian Open as the 10th seed and the four-time quarter-finalist will begin his campaign against Frenchman Marc Gicquel on Tuesday.

"Today it was a tough match," he said. "I feel I played very good sometimes and sometimes not so good.

"But it was a very positive week and I'm going to arrive to Melbourne with a lot of confidence. So that's good."

The last Argentine to reach the Sydney final was Juan Ignacio Chela in 2002 when he lost to Roger Federer.

Nalbandian, playing in his first Sydney International tournament, defeated Frenchman Michael Llodra, four-time champion Lleyton Hewitt and France's Richard Gasquet on the way to the final.

He extended his perfect record to seven from seven matches at the Sydney Olympic venue after inspiring Argentina to beat Australia in the 2005 Davis Cup quarter-final.

Nalbandian stretched his record over Nieminen to 7-4 with the Sydney victory.

Nalbandian appeared to be heading for a comfortable straight sets victory when he was serving for the match at 5-4, but was broken to love as Nieminen surged back into contention.

The left-handed Finn hit back, making a match of it and taking the second set in a thrilling tiebreaker, 11 points to nine.

But the Argentine broke Nieminen's serve three times in the last set to take the championship.

"When I lost the second set with all the chances I had, it got more complicated," Nalbandian said.

"But I was break point down in at 1-1 in the third set and I made a good serve and won that game.

"After that everything was on my side. I felt I got control of the third set and didn't have much trouble in the third set."

The loss continued Nieminen's poor conversion rate in finals, with just one title from nine career deciders.

"I started to play much better from the tiebreaker," Nieminen said. "I thought I could get the momentum in the third set as well. I had break point in the third game of the third set and I didn't take it.

"But it's very good. I needed these wins and I got a lot confidence from this week.

"I really feel good and I don't feel physically tired. But I have to play Monday at the Open, which is very soon."

Nieminen, who beat world number three Novak Djokovic in the Sydney semi-finals, was a quarter-finalist at last year's Australian Open and will meet 28th French seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round on Monday.

Nieminen's coach, Swede Joachim Nystrom, won the Sydney tournament when it was played at White City in 1983.

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