Monaco, Nieminen in Dusseldorf final
Third seed Juan Monaco fought off a late charge from fellow Argentine Guido Pella on Friday at the PowerHorse Open to post a 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) win and set up a final against Jarkko Nieminen.
The sixth-seeded flying Finn, who has never won a title in Europe, defeated Dutchman Igor Sijsling 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in one hour, 51 minutes with a late break for 4-2 in the final set after being a break down.
Conditions were sunny for much of the afternoon, a contrast in what had been a wet, cold week.
"I expected a tough match," said Nieminen, ranked 42nd, who got a quarterfinal walkover when German Tommy Haas could not play.
"I don't mind an easy day, but I had to go out for fitness and running afterwards. Today in these conditions the ball was going faster than it has before. We always have adjustments to make.
"I'm glad to be in my first final of the season, Monaco is one of the toughest guys to face on clay. He doesn't give you anything. If I can play my best tennis tomorrow I have my chances," Nieminen said.
Monaco, aged 29 and ranked 19th, won in his second semifinal of the year after losing in Houston last month on clay to John Isner. He will be playing in his 17th final.
The win in just under two hours stopped a run of upset for the number 101 Pella, who had knocked out top seed Janko Tipsarevic and followed up by beating seventh seed Viktor Troicki in a double blow this week to Serbia.
Pella was playing in his first ATP level semifinal and gave good account of himself against his more experienced compatriot.
"Until the last ball you didn't know what was happening," said the winner. "He played a great match, fought until the end.
"We both gave our best on every ball. Conditions today were perfect. It was sunny and that made the balls fly faster off the strings. It was a nicer tennis to watch."
Monaco went up a break in the third game of both sets for a 2-1 lead, sweeping the opening set on the back of that margin.
But it was a different story in the second set as Pella - who came through qualifying rounds at the venue which had hosted the World Team Cup for more than three decades - came to life.
Pella put Monaco under pressure in a demanding eighth game, surviving two acres from the seed and finally earning a break on his eighth chance of the match to make it 4-all.
But Pella dropped serve three games later before then breaking Monaco back to force a tiebreaker at 6-6,
In the decider, the youngster grabbed a 5-4 lead, but could not take proceedings into a deciding set.
Monaco missed on a match point and Pella did the same on a set point before the third seed closed out victory on his third winning opportunity from a Pella forehand into the net.
Monaco ended with 15 winners and 34 unforced errors. The win was his 13th of the season.