SYDNEY // Novak Djokovic missed another chance to move to a career-high No 2 ranking when he lost his Sydney International semi-final to Finland's Jarkko Nieminen. The 21-year-old Serb needed to reach the Sydney final to overhaul the 13-time grand slam singles champion Roger Federer when the next rankings are released to coincide with the Australian Open. But Nieminen beat the Australian Open champion 6-4, 7-6 and next faces David Nalbandian, who reached his 20th ATP Tour final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet.
Djokovic said the loss was a minor dent to his preparations for the Australian Open, which starts on Monday. "It's always great to win a tournament prior to a grand slam, but he was better today," Djokovic said. "My forehand didn't really work and you could see in all the important moments he served to my forehand and I couldn't put the ball in. "Just a bad day. But we keep on going." He changed racket sponsors last month, but declined to talk about how he's adjusting to the new equipment. Djokovic had chances last year to move to second place when Rafael Nadal was in that position. He also had a shot last week in Brisbane - if he'd performed well and Federer slumped in Doha - but he lost his first match. Djokovic, who got a wildcard entry for Sydney after losing in Brisbane, was drawn into the same side as Federer for the season's first major in Melbourne, and in the same quarter as Nalbandian. Djokovic had an upset win over the then top-ranked Federer in the Australian Open semi-finals last year.