Frenchman Gael Monfils set up a return date with Finn Jarkko Niemimen after downing Milos Raonic 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the Stockholm Open final.
World No. 10 Monfils, bidding for a place in the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals next month in London, solidified his position as he rallied past the 29th-ranked Canadian, who is only three tournaments into a comeback following hip surgery in July.
Nieminen defeated two-time champion James Blake 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-2 and will hope to make it third time lucky after losing trophy bids here in 2001 and 2006. A second career title for the 30-year-old will be on the line against Monfils, who beat him in the Bangkok quarter-finals three weeks ago. Nieminen won his only title to date in Auckland five years ago, but has lost five finals since, including at the hands of Blake in Stockholm in 2006.
Monfils dropped the first set against Raonic in a tiebreaker and was down a break in the second before making his move. The top seed, making his Stockholm debut, leveled at 4-4 and broke two games later to breathe new life into the contest.
The Frenchman went up 4-2 in the third set after Raonic saved a pair of break points, then pounded out a love game for 5-2 before serving out the victory after two hours and nine minutes on court. Monfils advanced to the final with 56 winners and three breaks of serve.
“My game plan [moving Raonic around] worked,” he said. “It’s never easy to make a comeback, but I stuck to my plan. I got a bit angry in the tiebreaker, but steadied after that. I thought the match was good from my side. He was getting tired at the end. The final will be tough, Jarkko’s a big fighter. I will have to review what I did in Bangkok and improve on it. I’m expecting a tough battle form the baseline.”
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