DAVID Ferrer stared defeat full in the face three times but staged an epic comeback from two sets down to beat fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open yesterday.
The fourth seed looked to be heading for the exit when, having been dominated by some brilliant play by the tenth seed for the first two sets, he faced Almagro serving for the match at 5-4 in the third.
It is not for nothing that Ferrer is known as one of the best fighters in tennis, however, and he hustled along the baseline to claw his way back into the contest and take the third set on Rod Laver Arena.
Twice more Almagro had chances to serve out for victory but he blew them both and Ferrer emerged a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 winner after three hours and 44 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.
“It was a miracle I won this match,” said Ferrer, who will face Novak Djokovic in the last four.
“I tried to fight and do my best (but) next round... I need to play my best tennis, better than today.”
Ferrer, who had won all 12 of his previous matches with Almagro, added: “I think maybe this time I was very close to losing.
“But I am positive. I am in the semi-final. I think the tiebreak of the fourth set I played very good.
“And in the fifth, he was cramping, problems with his leg, so it was easier for me.
“In the second set, I didn’t play good but in the third, I feel better with my game. I can play more aggressive. But the important thing is the victory, and I won.”
Almagro – bidding for his first grand slam semi-final – contributed to his own downfall by stuttering when he had victory within his sights and his body let him down in the last two sets when he was hindered by a leg injury.
“I think I played my best tennis today but it wasn’t good enough to beat David,” he said.
“I don’t want to think that it’s a mentality problem. If I had a mentality problem, I think I wouldn’t have won the first two sets.”
Ferrer, 30, has lost all four of his previous grand slam semi-finals, including defeats by world No 1 Djokovic at the US Open in 2007 and last year.
The 30-year-old played back-to-back events in the build-up to the Australian Open but said he would be able to recover in time for his fifth attempt at getting to a grand slam final.
“Of course I am tired,” he said. “I ran a lot against Nico. Now I will need to rest but I have a day and a half.”
Ferrer was speaking before Djokovic sealed his semi-final spot with a win over Tomas Berdych. But he was expecting the Serbian to come out on top in that quarter-final and knows he will be a formidable obstacle ahead of this weekend’s final. “He’s the best, I think,” said Ferrer about Djokovic.
“He’s the number one of the world and he’s the favourite to win the Australian Open. I will see the match tonight. But anyway I will have to play better than today for to win, for sure.”