Tomic knocks out defending champ
Young Australian Bernard Tomic took a major step towards winning his first career ATP Tour title by downing defending champion Jarkko Nieminen at the Sydney International on Thursday.
The 20-year-old, ranked 64th, clawed back from dropping the opening set to oust the Finn, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-2 in a night quarterfinal.
Tomic will take on third seed Andreas Seppi in Friday's semi after the Italian eliminated Spanish eighth seed Marcel Granollers 6-4, 7-5, in the last quarterfinal.
Tomic's only previous tour semifinal ended in defeat against Andy Murray last January in Brisbane.
"I'm ready to go for tomorrow's semifinal," Tomic said. "I'm really confident now and I got a shot to get into the final for the first time in my career.
"So the next match is a big match and I'm going to do everything I can to win tomorrow.
"To get the chance to play a first Tour event final and to do it in Australia is going to be unbelievable, but I've got to play two quality players to do so."
The towering Kevin Anderson earlier on Thursday became the first South African in nine years to reach the Sydney semifinals with victory over Denis Istomin.
The 36th-ranked Anderson accounted for the Uzbek 6-4, 6-3 in 84 minutes and will face last year's finalist Julien Benneteau of France in Friday's last four.
The last South African to reach the final four was Wayne Ferreira.
Benneteau, who lost to Nieminen in last year's final, was too strong for American qualifier Ryan Harrison, winning 6-4, 6-2.
Tomic, a 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist, now has 17 victories from his past 19 matches in Australia as he heads into the Australian Open Grand Slam in Melbourne on Monday.
"I was happy with myself to stay in there," Tomic said of his win over the experienced 44th-ranked Nieminen. "I was very concerned after that first set."
Tomic grabbed the only service break of the second set when Nieminen faltered trying to stay in the game at 4-5 down.
The Finn petered out in the final set and shanked his second serve on match point.
"I'm confident now. It's really good to win a match like this. Physically-wise I'm still pretty good," Tomic said.
Anderson, who is 6ft 8in (2.03 metres) tall, is bidding to claim his third ATP title after victories in Delray Beach and Johannesburg.
"It's always good to start the year off on a good note," he said.
"It's still just the second tournament and my sights are set on the Australian Open, but this is a great opportunity for me. I'm really pleased to be in the semifinals."
Anderson, 26, is coming off a successful week at the mixed-teams Hopman Cup in Perth for South Africa, where he beat Fernando Verdasco and John Isner.
Benneteau discovered on Thursday that he would be the beneficiary of American Isner's injury-enforced withdrawal from the Australian Open. The 35th-ranked Frenchman was elevated to the 32nd and last seeding.
"For sure it's better (to be seeded) but it doesn't mean that you are going to win some matches at the Australian Open," he said.