Serbia's Novak Djokovic missed his chance to leapfrog Roger Federer into second place on the world rankings when he was beaten 6-4, 7-6 by Finland's Jarkko Nieminen in the semi-finals of the Sydney International on Friday.
Last year's Australian Open winner, ranked third in the world behind Rafael Nadal and Federer, would have moved to a career-high second by reaching the final in Sydney but was outplayed by Nieminen, ranked 37 places below him at 40.
The Finnish left-hander coped with the swirling wind on the Ken Rosewall centre court much better than the error-prone Djokovic to claim his first win over the Serbian in three matches and reach his ninth ATP final.
"I'm disappointed about the match today. There was a lot of wind, difficult conditions," Djokovic told reporters. "He played better and deserved to win.
"My forehand didn't really work today and you could see in all the important moments he served to my forehand and I couldn't put the ball in. It was just a bad day."
Nieminen will play David Nalbandian in Saturday's final after the Argentine defeated Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 6-3 in 81 minutes.
Nalbandian has never been beaten at Sydney's Olympic tennis centre after helping Argentina trounce Australia in the Davis Cup quarter-finals four years ago and said he is getting better with every match leading into the Australian Open starting next week.
"Today I played much better than the first one and yesterday," he said. "It's good playing a few matches and to be in the finals here.
"I have to keep going and believing in my game and try to do a good match tomorrow."