Nieminen out to gate-crash Hewitt’s party
No room for sentiment, Jarkko Nieminen is plotting to gatecrash Lleyton Hewitt's farewell party at the All England Club.
No room for sentiment, Jarkko Nieminen is plotting to gatecrash Lleyton Hewitt’s farewell party at the All England Club.
“It’s my last Wimbledon too,” Nieminen said ahead of his first-round meeting with Australia’s retiring champion on Monday.
Hewitt and Nieminen go way back.
The Finn, who turns 34 in four weeks, is five months younger than Hewitt and they first clashed in 2002.
Thirteen years on and Nieminen is still chasing his first win over the former world No.1.
He’s lost all five previous encounters, including an epic five-setter in the 2005 US Open quarterfinals and then at Roland Garros two years later in their only other Grand Slam showdown.
“We’re the same age and he’s one guy I’ve never beaten,” Nieminen said.
“We played many times. A couple of meetings were really tight but I never managed to beat him. Now I get one more chance and it’s special to play a champion like him, especially here where he has won.
“It’s also interesting where this match will be the last in Wimbledon for one of us.”
While the loser can please themselves, the reward for the winner is likely to be a big one: a second-round crack at world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
“Centre Court guaranteed, I think,” Nieminen said.
“I just played Novak on Centre Court first round in Paris. I played well, but obviously it was not enough. Hopefully there’s another chance we play here too.”
Hewitt hopes not.
The 2002 All England Club champion is not only contesting his 17th and final Wimbledon, but also almost certainly his 45th and final foreign Grand Slam before calling it quits after a 20th straight Australian Open campaign in January.