Jarkko Nieminen, season veteran of 33, takes on the #1 ranked ITF junior and now #254 ranked rising ATP senior, Andrey Rublev.
Nieminen hasn’t played many matches on the clay this season and with the clay being a surface that physically takes some matches to get used to, this match really is going to be difficult.
As Nieminen’s career draws to a close he’s trying to make the most of everything and ‘check boxes’. For the first time as a professional he chose to go and be a part of the mini-clay court swing in South America, back in February. There he lost in an opening round match to Renzo Olivo at the Buenos Aires 250 open and it was clear from the start that he wasn’t interested in competing hard. There was little intensity in his footwork and over-all performance as compared to usual. He just wants to embrace the last season he has on tour and I don’t think that winning is of much importance to him, as bad as that may sound.
Focusing on the match-up and Rublev clearly has the bigger weapons and really shouldn’t be too troubled for getting breaks of serve. Jarrko’s second serve has always been his achillies heel throughout his career and anything soft and landing in the centre of the service box and this kid will munch it up. Nieminen will be straight onto the back-foot attempting to play counter-puncher, which he is less adept at now a days.
Nieminen will be looking to get Rublev playing as many backhands as possible, going cross cross court over and over again with that lefty forehand, seeking those angles out. Nieminen lost pace on these forehands over the years however and despite Rublev being 6’5 tall, he does have the lateral movement to defend that backhand side and deal with being dragged out wide. He puts his wing-span to good use Rublev and will manage to stay neutral in the point with Nieminen, eventually wrestling the front foot edge as the rally progresses.
Can’t see Nieminen impacting much on the return. Rublev maximises his height well and creates some sick angles with pace on his first serve and his second serve possesses some nasty kick. Nieminen’s movement and defence isn’t what it used to be and Rublev should therefore have it pretty easy with only short and central balls needing to be mopped up.
Andrey to get through in comprehensive style, most likely in straight sets.