BERNARD Tomic moved into the semi-finals of the Sydney International after a spirited comeback to eliminate last year's champion, Jarkko Nieminen in a marathon three-set match 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Combining power with precision, Tomic won 16 of the last 24 game points to prove that he's starting to match his ability with his growing confidence in his preparation for next week's Australian Open.
Nieminen started the match the more comfortable - although he was rattled at times by the young Australian - and showed his composure to gain a greater control of the court and cruised to a 3-1 first-set lead.
Tomic's early strength with his serve was short lived and the left-handed Nieminen became more comfortable with his return. The two traded breaks as the first set progressed but the Fin won the majority of break points and stormed out to a comfortable 5-2 lead.
But Tomic regained his dominance from the service line to win the next game and continued his fight back to win another and reduce the gap to one game.
The power and placement of Tomic's forehand proved too much for Nieminen and Tomic won his third consecutive game to square the ledger at five-all.
The momentum had firmly swung in favour of the hard-hitting Tomic and he forced the match into a tie-breaker with a serve that was clocked at 199km/h. A dramatic comeback appeared on the cards when Tomic took the lead in the tie-breaker but Nieminen's experience came to the fore and he proved cool in the clinches to take the first set 7-6.
That effort seemed to take its toll on Nieminen and Tomic seemed brighter after the break to comfortably win the first game.
Nieminen's clever drop shots took the sting out of Tomic's game but he moved to a 3-2 lead. Nieminen tied the score again but only momentarily.
Tomic won a marathon seventh game in the second set.
With the set in his grasp, Tomic attempted several unnecessary shots but Nieminen was faring no better and his errors gave the Australian the second set.
The Australian continued his rise as the third set got underway . Nieminen changed the pace and styles of his shots in attempt to draw Tomic closer to the net but the local rose to the challenge to clinch the first game of the deciding set.
Fatigued and frustrated by his much younger and fresher opponent, Nieminen's unforced error tally began to grow as the confidence on the other side of the net was also rising.
With a 3-1 lead in the third set Tomic sent a sliced return into the net but it somehow took the net cord and trickled fortuitously into his opponent's court to give the Australian the game and extend his lead to 4-1.
Nieminen clawed one game back, but it was in vain as Tomic consolidated his spot in the semi-final.