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Ferrer, Barthel, Nieminen Win Australian Open Tune-Ups

Spain’s David Ferrer, Germany’s Mona Barthel and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland tuned up for the Australian Open beginning tomorrow by winning warm-up tournaments for the year’s first tennis Grand Slam.

Ferrer, 29, defeated Belgium’s Olivier Rochus 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Heineken Open in Auckland yesterday for his 12th career title and third in New Zealand.

“I love to play here,” fifth-ranked Ferrer said on the ATP World Tour’s website. “Winning today was more special than the other times, because players are more difficult and I’m older now.”

Barthel, 21, upset top-seeded Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 in the final of the Hobart International in Australia to win her first WTA Tour title. Barthel, who climbed up 20 spots to 44th in the WTA rankings with her victory, made the tournament as a qualifier and knocked off four seeded players en route to her victory.

“I’m really surprised right now,” Barthel said. “I had a great week here, it could not have been better and we will see how the future will go.”

Nieminen, 30, defeated Julien Benneteau of France 6-2, 7-5 today to win the Sydney International and take his second career title in his 12th appearance as a finalist. Their final had been rescheduled after rain wiped out any play last night.

“I wanted to win badly,” Nieminen said. “It has been many years for me since my first title but I never stopped believing in myself and working hard.”

Nieminen, who claimed his first title in Auckland six years ago, then paired with Australia’s Matthew Ebden in the doubles final, which they lost 6-1, 6-4 to Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S. Nieminen will play his first round match at the Australian Open tomorrow against Argentina’s David Nalbandian.

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