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  • Nalbandian, Nieminen collide at Sony Open

    3/20/13 11:39 PM | Ricky Dimon
    Nalbandian, Nieminen collide at Sony Open Arguably the best first-round matchup of the tournament is pitting David Nalbandian against Jarkko Nieminen on Friday. The winner will face Martin Klizan.

    David Nalbandian and Jarkko Nieminen will be squaring off for the 13th time in their careers when they meet in round one of the Sony Open on Friday.

    Nalbandian leads the head-to-head series 8-4, including 6-4 on hard courts. The Argentine has won three in a row (he has not lost to Nieminen since 2007), including when he led by a set and a break at the 2012 Australian Open before the Finn retired.

    Both competitors are still going strong in their 30s. Nalbandian, 31, is mired down at No. 124 in the world in part due to injuries and also because his ranking points from last summer's Queen's Club final were voided due to disqualification. The former Wimbledon runner-up reached the Sao Paulo final last month (lost to Rafael Nadal) and is coming off a second-round Indian Wells setback to Jerzy Janowicz.

    Nieminen, also 31, already owns 11 victories for the year and he has kept himself in the Top 50 as a result of his efforts. The world No. 49 already has three quarterfinal appearances (including one semifinal) and he beat Igor Sijsling and Fernando Verdasco (6-1, 6-0) in Indian Wells before succumbing to Kevin Anderson.

    A slight edge in current form goes to Nieminen, but Nalbandian is finding his game in 2013 after missing the Australian swing and he will have raucous crowd support from the Argentinian contingent in Miami. Nalbandian in three tight sets is the pick.

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