TENNIS

Nalbandian clinches Sydney victory

Fourth seed David Nalbandian had little trouble dismissing Finland's Jarkko Nieminen to clinch a three-set victory in the final of the Sydney International. He will face Frenchman Marc Gicquel in the first round of next week's Australian Open.

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AFP - 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 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.

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 Frenchman Richard Gasquet on the way to the final.

He extended his perfect record to seven from seven matches at the Sydney Olympic venue after helping Argentina 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 battled 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 final set to take the championship.

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

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

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