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August 27, 2007

Jarkko Nieminen



Q. Can you explain or describe what it is like to return his serve?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Well, I think at least for me it was the most difficult serve I have returned. It's not because it's hard -- obviously, it's hard, but many players are hitting -- big servers are hitting always hard, at least first serves.
But it's the bounce because he's so tall. It's like bouncing very high after that.

Q. What about his second serve?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, his second serve is actually even better comparing first and second serve. The second serve is his best shot, I think.

Q. Do you think his consistency picked up with his forehand later in the match?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: If he serves like this, he doesn't have to do too much to get a few breaks in the match because obviously other players have pressure to hold serves.
He had only one breakpoint, and he used it well against me. But, I mean, he can obviously improve a lot. If he can even play more solid from the baseline, because he has pretty good -- he has good strokes, but at least today he was missing quite a lot.
Obviously, he's improving all the time, then it's even tougher to play against him when he gets more solid from the baseline.

Q. Did you know much about him? Had you seen him on TV?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I heard about him. Like first I heard his name after Washington, then I saw him playing doubles in Cincinnati and singles in New Haven.
I asked some things from his opponent, the guys who played him, like how is he playing. I saw only one match.

Q. What did they say?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: I mean, it's obviously pretty much what I saw in New Haven, like the second serve is the toughest stroke. Yeah, nothing special.
I mean, today he was mixing up his serve very well. He wasn't serving to the same places all the time. Against some guys, he was serving it more to the backhand or the forehand. Today it was very difficult to read his serve.

Q. You've seen Ivo, you've seen Andy, Wayne Arthurs. How does this compare to those three?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: It's funny, I never played Ivo and Andy, so maybe -- well, Ivo is also top 30 player now. I've played almost all the guys in top 100, top 50. I haven't played them so I can't compare.
But I just can say that this is the best serve I have seen on the court. And the thing is that I had -- like when it was tight, I think I had breakpoints in every set. I don't know about first one. Maybe I had one there. At least had breakpoints two times 15-40, few times Love-40, few times 30-40, and he always made first serve there every single time, at least when I had breakpoint.
He always served first serve. I got a few back, but they were really short. So it was like with the luck I could have won the point if he's missing those easy shots. Otherwise I felt I didn't do anything wrong. I tried sometimes to guess, sometimes react, sometimes take some more time, but he always made the first serve.
In the third set in the tiebreak, he made seven first serves in a row, so there's nothing much you can do. Five aces or something like that, yeah. You play three hours and you can always say like after, I could have played better a few points here and there.
I think I held my serves easy during the whole match except the one I lost. It was a few times deuce, maybe a few times to 30-All. I mean, I did what I had to do: Hold my serve. I couldn't use those breakpoints because he was serving too well in those situations.

Q. Does it seem surprising to you? He can spend four years in college and then suddenly come on tour like this and be this dominant?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, even that you have such a good serve, it's mentally demanding to win matches against top players. He's doing it really well. That's why I can believe that he can improve, he can still improve a lot.
But obviously it's nice to start playing on the tour with one of the best serves in the world. That makes it much easier than if you are a baseliner and you have to run a lot.
I mean, the opponent can't do anything about your serve.

Q. When you see him moving on the baseline, because he's so tall, doesn't move quickly, do you think you should have moved him a little bit more?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Like I said, I held my serve so easy during these three hours, four sets. Okay, I can say I shouldn't have lost the one I did. He played a really bad breakpoint. Serve and volleyed there. He hit a good return.
Usually if you play four sets there's always a few games you can say you could have played better. You play three hours and there's always a few points you don't play so good.
I don't know what I should have done different in all my service games. I didn't even have to play sometimes my best tennis when I was serving. But, yeah, just couldn't read his serve during the whole match.
Maybe more deuce side I got a little bit better. I was like started to guess right where he's serving. But, still, I was many times right, but it was just so bouncy that even I guessed right or I read his serve that's coming backhand or forehand, whatever, but still I couldn't make it.

Q. He's never going to be as fast as Nadal or Coria or Nieminen, but are you surprised how well he moves?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, he moves pretty well. I mean, technically he has pretty good strokes from the baseline. He gets more and more matches, improves his movement on the baseline, then he's even tougher to beat.
Like I felt I was controlling the match if you look at the points, the breakpoints. Like I said, he was just mentally very strong. When he had to put the first serves in, he did it. Like I said, all the breakpoints.

Q. Did you try any different preparation for this?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I tried to in practice return more. Some guys I practiced with, they came almost to the service line and served from there so I get the same angle where Isner is serving from.
Serve is more bouncy when you serve closer to the net.

Q. Did that help?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Well, at least I felt I did everything what I could do and I prepared for this match, but still I wasn't satisfied how I -- I expected to get few like -- to find a way to return better during four sets, three, four, five sets, how long we play. I expected him to serve many aces, and that's no news. Like I said, I just couldn't read his serve.

Q. The double-fault in the third set tiebreaker, did you just try to do too much?
JARKKO NIEMINEN: Yeah, I just tried to like keep to his backhand because I felt he took some risky returns from the forehand side. I just tried too much. The movement was really bad second serve there. Obviously it was critical. That's the pressure you feel against -- yeah, like I said, he served seven first serves in that tiebreak, or six, all the first serves in.
There is not too much -- you can't miss too many balls if he hits five aces.

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