Spain's David Ferrer slugs his way to the semis

NEW YORK -- On match point in a fifth-set tiebreak, David Ferrer was red-faced. He heard the word "challenge" and ran to the chair umpire to protest that Janko Tipsarevic was too late to challenge the preceding point.

But the Serbian hadn't. Ferrer had misinterpreted chair umpire Tony Nimmons' routine announcement. "You won the point," Nimmons calmly said, and a flustered Ferrer returned to the baseline.

Maybe it was nerves, but two lets and a second serve later, No. 8 Tipsarevic sent a backhand into the net, and Ferrer dropped to the court and curled his face into his hands. When the No. 4-seeded Spaniard lifted his head, he was smiling and through to the semifinals of the U.S. Open, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), in 4 hours, 31 minutes Thursday.

"It was a very emotional match," Ferrer said. "I enjoyed a lot playing this match with Janko, of course because I won. But it was a very emotional match, one of the best emotional matches of my career."

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Janko Tipsarevic went down in the fifth set but battled on to the tiebreak that ultimately swung in David Ferrer's favor.

Ferrer, who can still walk through New York City in relative anonymity, will meet the winner of No. 2 Novak Djokovic's night match against No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro, most recently known as the man who ended Andy Roddick's career.

Tipsarevic was sore and disappointed after, but said he hoped he and Ferrer made up for the absence of Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the U.S. Open, and Roger Federer, who lost the night before.

"You know, it's not maybe a quarterfinal they wanted to see without Rafa being there or whatever," Tipsarevic said. "But I think David and me -- and not trying to over-exaggerate anything -- played, until now at least, the best match of the tournament."

It would be hard to argue that point. It was a match filled with long points and drama.

Ferrer called a medical timeout as Tipsarevic was serving for the third set. For a few minutes, the trainer came out and, among other things, cut Ferrer's toenails while Tipsarevic sat waiting to serve.

"I had a problem with my toes, my nail," Ferrer said.

At any rate, Tipsarevic waited until the end of the fourth set, which Ferrer won by serving out, to call a medical timeout to have his own toes tended to. But that didn't seem to faze the at-times fragile Tipsarevic. He came back onto the court for the fifth set and broke Ferrer. It nearly looked as though he would reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.

Tipsarevic took a nasty spill up 4-1 in the fifth set. He appeared to slip on the surface of the court and ended up on his side. After the match, he said he thinks he might have injured his left hip. The Serbian got up and continued, but his play started to dip slightly.

Tipsarevic lost the game after pushing Ferrer to deuce and then was broken to be back on serve. Ferrer had double break point at 4-4, when Tipsarevic limped to the chair and called a medical timeout. He came back to hold, and the two stayed on serve to 6-6.

Both men got a standing ovation as the fifth set moved to a tiebreak.

There was only one minibreak, and at 4-3, Ferrer overpowered Tipsarevic's backhand side and then capitalized with the match on his racket.

"My opponent, he deserved also to win this match, no?" Ferrer said. "In one tiebreak, it's a lottery, and I had luck in important moments."

Much as Tipsarevic has always been second to fellow Serb Djokovic, Ferrer has Nadal's shadow to contend with. When Nadal was out of the tournament, Ferrer found some of the spotlight, but the former Open champ sent Ferrer a text Wednesday wishing him good luck.

"I learned a lot from him," Ferrer said. "I learned mentality, and he's a very, very, great person. He's one of the best in history and he's a normal person, no?"

With a berth in the semifinals, his second here, Ferrer can continue to forge his own identity in front of an appreciative U.S. Open crowd.

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