Melbourne – David Ferrer clawed back from two sets down at the Australian Open Tuesday after his fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro blew a golden chance to reach his first major semi-final in 34 attempts.
Tenth seed Almagro outplayed the world number five, whom he has never beaten, in the opening two sets and served for the match three times in the third set, only to falter on each occasion.
Ferrer seized the lifeline and finished too strongly for his Davis Cup team-mate, clinching it with two service breaks in the fifth set as he won 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in 3hr 44min.
The never-say-die Ferrer will now take on the winner of the quarter-final between defending champion Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych, which takes place later on Tuesday.
It will be Ferrer's second semi-final appearance at the Australian Open after beating celebrated compatriot Rafael Nadal in the 2011 quarter-finals, while his victory over Almagro was his 500th tour-level career match win.
Almagro was poised for his first victory over Ferrer at the 13th try, and first Grand Slam semi-final, before he tightened as he served out for the match.
His choke evoked memories of Sebastian Grosjean's spectacular collapse when fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement saved two match points in the third set of their 2001 semi-final in Melbourne and went on to win in five.
Almagro was broken for the first time in the match and again in his next service game to throw away the third set and open the door for Ferrer to surge back into the quarter-final.
There were eight service breaks in the fourth set before Ferrer levelled the match in the tiebreaker and then polished off the cramping Almagro in the fifth to complete a fighting victory.
“It was a miracle that I won this match. Nicolas had a lot of chances to beat me and I tried to fight for every point,” Ferrer said.
“I know all the players in important moments are nervous. Today I was close to losing, but finally I come back.
“I'm always trying to do my best, to fight a lot. If I lost, I would like to go down fighting. I never give in.”
Ferrer said he remained positive despite the pressure situation.
“I think I was very close to losing this time, but I stayed positive because I am playing in a semi-final,” he said.
“I played very good in the tiebreak in the fourth set and in the fifth, he was cramping, had problems with his leg, so it was easier for me.”
There were a total of 15 service breaks in the match with Ferrer getting eight of them, and both players made more errors than winners.
It was further anguish for Almagro, who lost the deciding rubber as the Czech Republic beat Spain in the Davis Cup final in Prague last November.
“I think I played a really good match today. It was close. I think it was a great battle,” Almagro said.
“At the end it was really tough because I started to feel some things at 4-3 in the third set in my ankle and in my adductor.
“After that it was really tough and he started to play better and he is the winner.” – Sapa-AFP