Finland's Jarkko Nieminen profited from an error-strewn display to send top seed Novak Djokovic crashing out of the Sydney International today. The 40th-ranked Nieminen savoured one of his finest results on the ATP Tour to reach Saturday's Sydney final with a fighting 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) win in one hour and 40 minutes.
Left-handed Nieminen, who only reached the semi-finals on a walkover from injured Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, will play Argentina's David Nalbandian in the final.
Nalbandian, who has a 6-4 win record over Nieminen, reached his 20th career ATP final with an untroubled straight sets win over Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the other semi-final.
Djokovic had his chances, with two set points on Nieminen's serve at 5-4 in the second set, but he was unable to convert them and Nieminen was too consistent for the Serbian in the decisive tiebreaker.
"My forehand didn't really work today, and you could see in all the important moments he served to my forehand and I couldn't put the ball in. It was just a bad day," Djokovic said.
"It's always great to win a tournament prior to a grand slam, but he was better today.
"You have to give him credit for that. I just hope I will maintain my high level of performance. It wasn't really what I expected, especially today."
Djokovic only played in the Sydney tournament after receiving a late wild card following his shock first-round exit in last week's Brisbane International to Latvian Ernests Gulbis.
The 21-year-old Serb's form looked to be improving, with wins over Paul-Henri Mathieu and Mario Ancic, but he was disappointed with his showing in windy conditions on the main court against Nieminen.
"Well, (my game's) not 100 percent, but it's getting there," Djokovic said. "I needed a couple matches here. That's why I came to Sydney. Hopefully, I can get into my shape from last year for (the Australian Open) Melbourne."