The people who bought tickets for the men’s quarterfinals session at the United States Open on Thursday afternoon were not rewarded with a marquee matchup when Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and David Ferrer of Spain fell into their laps, but they were rewarded with perhaps the best match of the tournament.
By the fifth-set tiebreaker, the crowd was on its feet cheering both players as Ferrer dug out a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory in a marathon full of gritty play and gutsy shots that sent Ferrer to a hard-earned spot in the semifinals.
Long and gruelling
At the end of 4 hours 31 minutes, when Tipsarevic sent his final shot into the net, Ferrer reveled in the kind of victory he is known for: long and gruelling and full of retrieved shots only he could reach.
“I don’t have words,” Ferrer said after the match. “I am really happy. It was a really emotional match. Now I don’t have words to explain what happen. Janko is a really amazing player. He deserve also to win today.”Ferrer, the No. 4 seed, advanced to play Novak Djokovic, who defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the other quarterfinal. It will be Ferrer’s second appearance in the Open semifinals, and his fourth at a major tournament. He has never made it to a Grand Slam final.
Whatever happens, he gave Open fans a match to remember. Down two sets to one and then down a break, 1-4, in the final set, Ferrer upheld his reputation as a player who never gives up on a match or a shot.
“I try always to fight a lot,” he said. “I try to be focused every point.”
While Ferrer put on a display of incredible stamina, Tipsarevic, the No. 8 seed, also refused to buckle. He had given up his service-break advantage in the fifth set and appeared to be ailing when he called for a trainer while facing two break points. But he returned to the court, erased both break points and hung in for the tiebreaker.
There, Ferrer had more energy left and Tipsarevic’s chances were lost in errors sent wide and into the net.
Ferrer and Tipsarevic were playing for only the fourth time in their careers and for the first time since they met in the first round of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Tipsarevic won that meeting, after having lost their first two matches in straight sets to Ferrer. None hinted at the epic match they would wage here.
“I would like to thank the crowd in New York, which was amazing,” the Serb said after the match. “It’s not maybe a quarter-final that they wanted to see, without Rafa being there or whatever, but I think David and I - and not trying to over exaggerate anything - played, until now at least, the best match of the tournament. I'm happy that the crowd appreciate that coming into the fifth set tie-break.”
Tipsarevic seemingly took control of the fifth set with an early break of serve.
He had a 4-1 lead, but the momentum swung away from him in the next game when he went sprawling to the court after slipping.
Tipsarevic shook it off after a short delay, but seemed to be laboring in the next game, and Ferrer grabbed the break of serve back. Facing two break points when the set was tied, 4-4, Tipsarevic doubled over on court and called for an injury timeout.
He saved both break points, the first one by cutting off a shot for a volley winner, and then unfurled three big serves to salvage the game.
In the tiebreaker, Ferrer was clearly stronger. He had enough energy left to throw his arms in the air in celebration before giving Tipsarevic a long hug for his efforts.