Monfils to play Hewitt in Kooyong final

Melbourne, Jan 14 (AFP) Frenchman Gael Monfils will havethe inside track on Lleyton Hewitt as he lines up against theAustralian in Saturday''s final at the Kooyong Classic.

The athletic Monfils booked his place in the decidingmatch at the eight-man pre-Australian Open tuneup as he beatRoland Garros semi-finalist Jurgen Melzer 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)today.

Earlier, Australia''s former world number one Hewittovercame Russian Nikolay Davydenko 6-3 7-6 (7/3).

Monfils is coached by Roger Rasheed, former Australianmentor to Hewitt and a man unlikely to hold back any secretsabout the Hewitt game.

"It''s great to be in the final," said number 12 Monfils,who stands 2-2 with the Australian.

"I''ve had two long, tough matches here. And I''llcertainly be ready for Lleyton, thanks to having Roger as mycoach."

Hewitt''s victory is a boost ahead of his tough openinground match at the first Grand Slam of the season, where hefaces a reprise of his 2002 Wimbledon final clash againstfierce Argentine rival David Nalbandian.

In earlier play after rain spoiled yesterday''s programmeand the early part of today, Melzer defeated 2010 Kooyongfinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 8-6 in a pro set to open hisweather-delayed account at the event.

The abbreviated match produces a winner in a format wherethe first player to reach eight games with a margin of twogames takes the victory.

Hewitt, whose best performance at the Australian Open wasreaching the final in 2005, said that with his game tickingover nicely, facing Nalbandian held no special fears.

The feisty Australian leads the series 3-2, includingwins at Wimbledon and in the Australian Open. But he lost toNalbandian in the Davis Cup six years ago.

"There are no easy draws out there," said Hewitt, nowranked 54th in the world.

"I''ll be ready for the first round, Nalbandian or not.

We''ve played each other in some big matches.

"I was near flawless in that Wimbledon final (2002). Butwe''ve both moved on a lot since then. I''m hitting the ballwell and I''ll be ready."

The Australian had a workout against Davydenko as headded a second Russian scalp to his Kooyong record followinghis win over Mikhail Youzhny on Wednesday''s opening day.

Hewitt was broken while up a set and serving for thematch at 5-3 in the second, with Davydenko saving a matchpoint to keep his hopes alive.

The set moved into a tiebreaker, with Hewitt regaininghis momentum to earn the win.

"It''s always nice to beat quality players. Nikolay washitting the ball well (in the Doha final last weekend). Ithink we match up well.

"My ball-striking was much better today than againstYouzhny. Conditions were more swirly then and today it wascalmer. It''s always nice to win matches," said Hewitt, whowill play the Australian Open for a 15th time. (AFP) CM

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