AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Ferrer beats Almagro in “miracle” of Melbourne Park

World number four reaches fifth Grand Slam semifinal after going down two sets to compatriot

David Ferrer celebrates his win over Nicolás Almagro on Tuesday.
David Ferrer celebrates his win over Nicolás Almagro on Tuesday. Mast Irham (EFE)

The number of times a tennis player comes back from two sets down at a Grand Slam can usually be counted on one hand. Novak Djokovic has been making something of a habit of five setters in Australia over the past couple of years, but never has the reigning champion survived a two-set deficit at Melbourne Park.

David Ferrer, the new world number four, did exactly that in all-Spanish quarterfinal against 10th seed Nicolás Almagro on Tuesday, eventually prevailing 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2.

Down two sets and a break at 3-5 in the third, Ferrer looked a pale imitation of the dogged competitor the courts are accustomed to and Almagro seemed odds-on to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal. Serving for the match, the world number 10 appeared as taught as his racket strings and although he pulled back to deuce from 15-40, Almagro erred overly on the side of caution to allow Ferrer to break with some dead-eyed down-the-line shots.

Ferrer took the fourth on a tie break and then raced through the fifth 6-2 after Almagro had called for the trainer for treatment to a groin problem. The 10th seed was left to rue his missed opportunity to finish his below-par rival in the third. Ferrer hailed a "miracle" comeback as he prepares to contest the fifth Grand Slam semifinal of his career. The victory was also Ferrer's 500th professional win on the ATP Tour. One for the scrapbook.

"Winning this game is a miracle," said Ferrer courtside after the three-hour, 44 minute match. "Nicolás had many opportunities to beat me. It's been incredible. I played point by point. I fought for every point. That's my game."

"I'm disappointed," Almagro said. "I will work hard to be ready to play against the best players. Today was a fantastic opportunity for me but I will work to be ready for the next one."

The Murcian player denied that he had wilted under the magnitude of the moment: "If it was a mental problem, I wouldn't have won the first two sets."

Ferrer now faces Djokovic for a place in the final. Another consummate competitor who also came within a whisker of departing Melbourne in an epic five-setter against Stanislas Wawrinka on Sunday. The higher-ranked Tomas Berdych posed fewer problems for the defending champion in Tuesday's evening session, nicking just the one set as the Serb cruised to a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

"I will have to play my best tennis," said Ferrer ahead of the clash. "I'll have to very aggressive and serve well to have a chance. Djokovic is the world number one."

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