HARARE - Finland are pulling all the stops to see off Zimbabwe in the upcoming Davis Cup tie including recalling Jarkko Nieminen from retirement whilst their media effectively believes the match is already won.
The 34-year-old Nieminen, had been playing for his country every year since 1999 but called it quits last year in November after losing to former world number one Roger Federer in two tie breaks during an ATP event in Helsinki.
However, a chance to play in front of his home crowd for one last time seems to have lured him out of retirement.
He is now set to play his 34th Davis Cup tie, hoping to make it 60 individual wins from 87 matches.
“With Jarkko in the team, they will be the clear favourites to move to the next round,” Tennis World wrote yesterday.
“The tie will be played on Indoor hard court in Kittilan Urheiluhalli, on fast Acrylic surface that will suit the home team perfectly.
“Zimbabwe will come with only three players, led by Takanyi Garanganga, their best player, and two other guys with poor rankings.”
Finland captain Tiilikainen Kim had earlier told Finnish media he was confident home advantage will see them past Zimbabwe.
Apart from Nieminen (ATP rank 271), the Finnish team will be represented by Harri Heliövaara (863), Eero Vasa (1301) and Henri Kontinen (doubles ATP ranking of 34).
“We have a good team, with three experienced players and one of the new players. Maybe this should spark a comeback in professional fields,” Kim was quoted by the Finnish media as saying.
“Henkka (is) among the world’s best and would be a valuable confirmation to any national team. Eero, in turn, will bring new blood to the team. He is definitely one for the future.”
Zimbabwe’s charges will be led by Garanganga (ATP rank 541), Mark Fynn (1 159) and Courtney Lock (2 150) who replaced his brother Benjamin, who pulled out due to school commitments.
The two sides have previously met in 1996 with Zimbabwe convincingly defeating Finland 4-1 in that encounter but that history does not seem to bother the Finns.
“The whole team is very excited about the matches that will be played in Lapland, and yet its lively ski time. Rent a cabin, which summed up the excellent team spirit even further. A really nice experience for everyone,” Tiilikainen said.