• Nalbandian, Nieminen meet in Australian Open first round

    1/15/12 5:49 AM | Ricky Dimon
    Nalbandian, Nieminen meet in Australian Open first round Veterans David Nalbandian and Jarkko Nieminen are set for an opening-round clash on Monday in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Tomas Berdych begins his campaign against Albert Ramos.

    Jarkko Nieminen vs. David Nalbandian

    Nieminen will be back on the court just over 24 hours after defeating Julien Benneteau for the Sydney title. The final, of course, was supposed to be on Saturday but it was delayed by rain. The veteran Finn, who advanced one round in Brisbane the previous week, also scored wins over James Duckworth, Radek Stepanek, Bobby Reynolds, and Denis Istomin.

    This showdown between 30-year-olds is the 12th meeting of their careers. Nalbandian leads the head-to-head series 7-4, including 5-4 on hard courts. They most recently faced each other three years ago in Sydney, where Nalbandian prevailed 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-2. The Argentine did not play any warmup tournaments prior to the Australian Open, but he got in some match practice last week in Kooyong. Because Nieminen has to make such a quick turnaround, Nalbandian in four sets is the pick.

    Tomas Berdych vs. (7) Albert Ramos

    Berdych and Ramos will be squaring off for the first time in their careers when they clash in round one of the Australian Open on Monday. A huge favorite on paper in this one, Berdych is making his 2012 ATP debut this week. The seventh-ranked Czech fine-tuned his game in Kooyong and should be good to go despite a minor shoulder issue.

    Ramos, a 23-year-old Spaniard, enjoyed a breakout 2011 campaign on tour and is up to 65th in the world rankings as of Sunday. He scored a win over Dmitry Tursunov to open the season in Doha but Ramos lost in the Auckland first round to Lukas Rosol. Look for Berdych to get the job done in straight sets.

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