Janko Tipsarevic had once said, "I can beat the best in the world when I am not walking on the moon. But I am walking on the moon ninety per cent of the time." The Serbian took a mental trip to outer space again on Saturday.
After a strong start to the match, where he dropped just four points on his serve in the first set, Tipsarevic failed to keep up the level, eventually going down 6-3, 3-6, 2-6 to Belgium's Xavier Malisse at the Chennai Open.
In the second semifinal of the day, Stanislas Wawrinka wiped off top seed Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 16 minutes.
Despite finishing his quarterfinal match against Robin Haase, where he came out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 winner, after two in the morning, Wawrinka showed no signs of fatigue. Everything the third-seeded Swiss hit fell inside the white lines. The feeling was heightened by the final point, where Wawrinka went for a defensive lob and the ball plonked in near the baseline, much to the bemusement for Berdych.
The hard yards that Wawrinka had put in the earlier roundsseemed to pay as he found the top gear when it mattered most.
Four years, two wrist surgeries and a ranking low of 353 later, Malisse will return to the title round of Chennai Open. The 2007 champion had come into the match having dropped just 10 games in the previous three rounds. But with Tipsearvic, the sixth seed, serving at full steam, there was little the Belgian could do.
Tipsarevic was keeping Malisse's big game, which had powered him to number 19 in the world, in check with greater consistency on the court. Once his defence started to waver, the sting in the Belgian's groundies was starting to wound. The rallies were getting shorter as Malisse started stepping up and drilling in the forehand.
"I had to play aggressive in the second set," said Malisse later. "After the first set I had nothing to lose. I started hitting the forehand flatter and took some more risks, and as the match progressed I started serving better."