BERNARD TOMIC moved into the semi-finals of the Sydney International after a spirited comeback to eliminate last year's champion Jarkko Nieminen in an absorbing three-set match, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-2.
Combining power with precision, Tomic won 16 of the last 24 points to prove his ability is starting to match his confidence as he prepares for the Australian Open.
''I was happy with myself to stay in there,'' Tomic told AAP. ''Early in that second set, I felt like he was going for shots and was relaxing and for me to stay in there til that three-all point was really big.
''After I won that second set, I freed up and played better tennis.''
Nieminen started the match more comfortably but was rattled at times by the young Australian. The Finn showed his composure to gain a greater control of the court and cruised to a 3-1 lead in the first set.
Tomic's early strength with his serve was short-lived and the left-handed Nieminen became more composed with his return. The two traded breaks as the first set progressed but the Finnish star won the majority of break points and stormed out to a comfortable 5-2 lead.
Tomic regained his dominance from the service line to win the next game and continued his fight back to win another and reduce the gap to one game.
There was no shortage of confidence from the 20-year-old as he took the match to the reigning champion. The power and placement of his forehand shots proved too difficult for Nieminen to control and Tomic won his third consecutive game to square the ledger at 5-5.
The momentum had firmly swung in favour of the hard-hitting Tomic and he forced the match into a tie-breaker with a serve that was clocked at 199km/h.
A dramatic comeback appeared on the cards when Tomic took a lead in the tie-breaker, but Nieminen showed his years of experience to clinch the first set with a 7-6 win.
The battle of the tie-breaker took its toll on Nieminen with Tomic emerging from the break brighter and taking the first game.
Nieminen showed his class with a clever drop shot to take the sting out of Tomic's game, though he surrendered the fifth game of the second set with an erroneous shot that gave Tomic a 3-2 lead.
Nieminen tied the score again but only momentarily. Tomic won a marathon seventh game in the second set.
With the match in his grasp, Tomic attempted to pull off several unnecessary shots when a more simple approach would have sufficed. Luckily his blushes were spared by several Nieminen errors and he took a commanding lead in the second set.
A wayward cockroach flew onto the court and ran across Tomic's baseline to give his 31-year-old opponent some respite.
In a show of grace towards the bug, or perhaps not wanting to damage the grip on his shoes, Tomic spared its life and called a ball boy to remove it with a towel.
The Australian continued his dominance after the resumption of play to win the second set and rattle the former champion.
Nieminen changed the pace and styles of his shots in an attempt to draw Tomic closer to the net but the local rose to the challenge to clinch the first game of the deciding set.
Fatigued and frustrated by an opponent 11 years younger, Nieminen began to screw easy shots and allowed Tomic to extend his lead to 3-1 in the third set.
A Tomic drop shot appeared destined for the net but the ball fortuitously trickled over to give him game point and extend his lead to 4-1.
Nieminen clawed one game back, but it was in vain as Tomic consolidated his spot in the semi-finals.