Tipsarevic vs Ferrer at U.S. Open

Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic, left, took on Spain's David Ferrer at Arthur Ashe Stadium during a quarterfinal match at the U.S. Open. (PHOTO CREDIT: Mary Murphy / WPIX-TV / September 7, 2012)

Twenty-eight--year old Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia always knows how to make a fashion statement--a "can't miss him" figure in red-rimmed sports glasses and a thick shot of dark hair--every time he steps out onto a tennis court. Now, he'll be known for being one-half of the best match of the 2012 US Open, so far--one with the best attitude, too--after his dramatic, Thursday evening defeat.

Tipsarevic (pronounced Tip-SAH-re-vich) seemed "on track" to win the quarterfinal against Spain's David Ferrer, up 4 games to 1 in the final, fifth set inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday. The match was running more than four hours long, with the work ethic and shot-making displayed by both players spectacular, their tennis shirts drenched in sweat.

Ferrer--a compact player at 5'9" and 160 pounds--has been called "Little Beast"--for his dogged chasing down of every ball. He told Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper earlier this year that when he was a teenager, his coach--Javier Piles--once locked him in a dark closet for hours, because he hadn't been practicing hard enough. Ferrer took a break from tennis to do construction work and then came back to the sport....and Piles. Piles remains his coach to this day.

So it was Thursday evening, just past 6 pm, that Ferrer was serving, down 1-4, when he sent a "drop shot" Tipsarevic's way. The Serbian raced toward the net to fetch it--and then came the fall.

Tipsarevic landed on his left hip and stayed on the ground for a couple of moments. In that instant, the quarterfinal seemed like a boxing match where the fighter goes down, and you're not sure if the bout is over.

But Tipsarevic got up, to thunderous applause, and walked towards the sidelines, testing his body's ability to bear weight. The match resumed, and Ferrer won his service game to make it 2-4. Tipsarevic was still ahead.

Yet it soon became apparent momentum had shifted. Ferrer won 80 percent of the points in the next, two games to tie the match at 4-4. Tipsarevic took a medical break to get his right thigh taped. Still, Ferrer had his own problems, with a throbbing toe on his right foot that had needed some attending to, mid-match. A bad toe can be a killer to your footwork.

The pair dueled it out, and the final set went to 6-6, meaning a seven point "tie break" would decide everything. The crowd in Arthur Ashe stadium was going crazy, with cries of Da-vit!! for David Ferrer and rallying songs for Tipsarevic. Even though no American man is left in the US Open singles ranks--and World # 1, Roger Federer, was eliminated in another quarterfinal--two European players who have never won a Slam were reminding fans why tennis is a universal sport of determination--and hope--that every person can identify with.

When Tipsarevic put his backhand into the net to lose the tiebreak, 5-7, Ferrer fell to his knees at the baseline. The match was over after four hours and thirty one minutes.

Ferrer then got up and ran to the net, offering the vanquished Tipsarevic a hug.

Ferrer later said, "My opponent, he deserve also to win this match, no?" He then noted, "I had luck in important moments."

Tipsarevic, for his part, did not want to blame the fall for the outcome of the match.

"The fall on 4-1 was just a fall," Tipsarevic said afterwards. "Even though it's really painful, I don't want to blame that on the loss today."

Stay tuned for more on Tipsarevic. The Serbian who started playing at age 6 and won the boys' Singles title at the 2001 Australian Open is still hoping to win his first, adult "Grand Slam" one day. And as Ferrer advances to his first, US Open semi-final since 2007, Tipsarevic will watch him take on another Serbian, Novak Djokovic, the US Open's defending champion.

David Ferrer won the 2012 US Open quarterfinal 6-3; 6-7; 2-6; 6-3; 7-6--but tennis fans were the real winners on Thursday.