September 6, 2005
NEW YORK CITY
THE MODERATOR: First question, please.
Q. Is this your best win, best day of your career so far?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, well, I have to say that. I haven't been this far in a Grand Slam. Beating four good players, you know, in a row, and all the best players are playing here at the moment. I'm still playing in quarterfinals, so it's, yeah, my best achievement.
Q. How well do you know Ville Liukko?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I know him.
Q. Now you've gone farther than any other Finnish player in a Grand Slam.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I think so. I don't actually know the record. But I knew -- I remember that he reached fourth round once in Australia, and I did it in Paris - was it two years ago - and this is my second time to reach the fourth round. But now it's even better.
Q. So marriage agrees with you?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah (smiling).
Q. Has that made a difference for you in terms of your attitude on the court?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I think it doesn't matter. If the player is very happy, also happy off the court, it helps, I think, everything.
Q. You've had some stomach muscle problems this year and had to retire from a couple of matches. No problem with the stomach muscles anymore?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No. No problem. I feel, touch wood (knocking on the desk.) I had a lot of bad luck started last year when I broke my wrist, and then I was sick in end of year. And then in Australia I pulled my stomach muscle, so I lost my ranking. I dropped to maybe 130, around 140. Now I'm almost back.
Q. Since Umag are you still getting therapy for it?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, in Umag I was just sick, like just I had fever. I didn't have any problems with the stomach, stomach muscle so...
Q. Assuming Lleyton wins, what do you think about playing him? What's difficult about playing him?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Well, it will be a tough battle. He's always fighting hard and playing very solid. If he wins today, it will be my third time against him. I lost to him twice, once in Cincinnati, that was a three-setter; I won the first set there. I played pretty well there, but then I lost quite easy in Paris. So now it's different time, and I'm playing really well at the moment. I almost feel that I'm playing better in every match, and really I have nothing to lose. Before coming here, I knew that if I'm playing well, I have chances to play during the second week and go even -- I win even more that. Now I'm playing here. Of course I am happy what I have already reached, but I try to forget those now and try to focus for the next match and then think about all the wins after this tournament.
Q. Why is your confidence growing?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Well, this year I have played many good matches where really I have beat many good players. I beat Agassi in Paris, I beat Puerta in Sopot after he reached finals in Paris. Also some other good wins. I have played pretty up and down. I have had really good weeks and then some bad weeks. But when I have been playing well, I felt that I can really challenge the top guys, and I beat some of the Top 10 guys. So that gives a lot of confidence. I just have been working to get my game more solid that I wouldn't have those bad games and bad weeks anymore.
Q. Are you training primarily in Sweden?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, I train in Finland, sometimes in Helsinki, sometimes in Stockholm, and sometimes in Copenhagen. So in Scandinavia.
Q. Wherever it's warm.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah.
Q. Is tennis popular?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: It's getting more popular. Hopefully, this helps even more, when I play -- I play well here. The media is really following my games and they are showing some of my matches on TV. It's getting bigger. It hasn't been that big before, but when I reached Top 100 in 2001, they started to -- like newspapers, they started to write more about tennis, and some young children started to play more tennis than before.
Q. Was it hard getting into tennis at a high level in Finland?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: For me?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, I had pretty good junior career. I was always succeed in Finland, so like I competing well since I was 10 years old. Then I went to Sweden, and then to Europe, then I came here and compete here. I mean, it's not easy, but they always had really good players in Sweden, so I don't have -- I don't see the reason why we couldn't have more like good players. But of course in Sweden they have huge tennis culture that we don't have in Finland. Because they had Bjorn Borg, Wilander, Edberg. They have a good system for tennis, and it gives confidence when they always can product (sic) these players.
Q. In Sweden, they have serious hockey games. How is your hockey?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I have been there twice.
Q. So you've been invited to play?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I was invited twice, yeah.
Q. How did you do?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Second time I did better. I have to say the first time was tough. I was a little bit slow on the ice. But second time I think I scored maybe once.
Q. You didn't get run over by Magnus Larsson, did you?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, he's fast. He can play really well.
Q. What do you think, is ice hockey the national sport in Finland?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Ice hockey is huge, it's very big. And then, I don't know, ice hockey has been always very popular during my time when I have been -- I have followed -- watched -- I have been following all the sports, and ice hockey is huge in Finland. There are some other winter sports, too, like skiing. I skied. But now soccer is getting bigger, and athletics. We, I think, are improving in many sports, but winter sports are still more popular.
Q. There's a Nieminen or maybe two in the NHL. Any relation?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, my name, Nieminen, is very common in Finland. I think, yeah, it's third or fourth common name in Finland.
Q. Would Kimi Raikkonen be the most...
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Raikkonen? Yeah, probably. Sorry?
Q. The most popular...
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Sportsman in Finland, yeah. We always had good -- have had very good Formula One drivers and rally drivers.
Q. There was a very unfortunate incident during Wimbledon where the President of France was overheard having a conversation with others and made disparaging remarks about Finnish cuisine. He said, "There's only one thing as bad as English food, and that's Finnish food."
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Finnish food?
Q. Do you recall that incident?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I don't, no.
Q. Could you defend Finnish cuisine?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I defend. Yeah.
Q. What's good to eat in Finland?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: We have a lot of fish. Yeah, I think fish is very good in Finland. Actually, I am allergic to all the seafood so I can't eat fish. But I think it's good. We have good fish.
Q. Did you change anything in your game to play today?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I think I played very smart today. I was -- I think that's my strongest part, I can play like adjust my game, like, even during the match and see how the opponent is playing. Because I was changing the pace and the tempo during the first -- in the first. It was working very well. Even in the second set it was working. I was changing a little bit. I hit little bit slower and then harder. I think he was missing a lot. That's why he was missing a lot. And then in the beginning of the third, he started to just go for it a little more, struggle a little more. I just started to hit hard and let him play and make the -- hit the mistake.
Q. You had only played him once before. I haven't seen you use that tactic before.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Well, now it's working really well. I think that's my -- one of my, like, my best parts, that I can play different games; I can sometimes defend, sometimes play aggressive, and I can play in many different ways. I can change it during a match. When I'm playing well, then it's working.
Q. Being the first Finn to go this far at a Grand Slam tournament, you are talking about the fact that you get media play back at home. Do you feel that on the court, that you're representing Finland in any way, shape or form?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I'm not really thinking that on the court, but otherwise I'm like proud to play also for the country. I mean, of course this is my career and I'm play like for myself, but also I feel that I play for my country. Like we said, there's not too many Finnish players. Finland is anyway a small country, so we don't have too many sportsmen competing around the world. I feel I'm very proud also to play for my country. Yeah, if I can like build up some tennis culture in Finland, that would also be great for the game.
Q. It could cast you in a role as a pioneer.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, well, I'm trying this.
Q. One of your possible opponents in the next round is Dominik Hrbaty, who is wearing an unusual shirt this week. Perhaps you've seen him in the locker room. Could you offer an opinion on that shirt?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: About Hrbaty?
Q. His shirt.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: His shirt, I saw the shirt for the first time.
Q. What do you think?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: It's, uh... (smiling).
Q. If he was wearing it on court --
JARKKO NIEMINEN: He's a good player (laughter).
Q. If you had to play him in the next round and he wore that shirt, would you find it a humorous distraction that would keep you from playing the game?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: It's only on the back side, so I can't see it.
Q. Well, what if he has to chase a lob or something?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Then I'll try to watch just the ball (smiling).
Q. If you were to play Hewitt, do you have any parts of your game which you think could hurt him?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I think that my, what I said, is my strong point to (assess) the game and changing the pace and the tempo. I think you have to really do that well against Hewitt because if you hit so hard, he's moving great, and just the ball comes hard back and you can't just let him play because he's making you move. So I think I have to play a little bit different, just to take chances when I have to, to come to the net, and sometimes, like, roll the ball with a lot of spin and not hit flat all the time. But, yeah, I don't want to say all the tactics I'm planning to do, but it will be a tough game. He doesn't give anything free, so you have to do something with the ball.
Q. You got a lot of free points today.
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I got I think -- well, in the third set I noticed that he wasn't mentally that strong during the first two sets. He was like little bit hopeless, try to hit winners almost from everywhere. That's why I let him in.
Q. Do you feel he changed after you staved off that set point in the tiebreak?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, that was really important. I already felt in the end of the -- I knew in the end of the second set, of this set. Of course in any match you feel that leading one set to Love, that the second set is huge to make it two sets to Love or one-all. But now today it was -- it meant a lot because he started really to, like, go down from there, second set. I think I just kept well my focus because I noticed that he started to miss more. It's a big match anyway, so I didn't want to think about winning the match in the beginning of the third set. I still had to work a lot for that.
Q. When you were young, did you ever leave the country and go overseas or live in Sweden or live anywhere else for a while?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, I always lived in Finland. But I have -- I have been competing a lot in Sweden, and sometimes I have gone there for practice.
Q. But you never left home all together?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, I always have lived in Finland, so I have like -- but some I have like -- I have gone there for a few practice sessions, for a few weeks, then come back. After the season, sometimes I go to Stockholm. Actually very often I go to Sweden because they have so many players there and it's so close, like a 30-minute flight from Finland.
Q. Do you have to go to Sweden really to find the competition you need to practice against?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: No, we have some, like, good guys to practice with in Finland, but there are not too many. We have just let's say few players who are really, like, competing around the world. That's why it's also a good change to go to Sweden. They have top players, and it's good change for me. But when I'm few days in Finland, it's not a problem to find guys to practice with. They are practicing well.
Q. Who's playing Davis Cup?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Tuomas Ketola has been playing last years.
End of FastScriptsâ€¦.