David Ferrer, who has played much of his career in the shadow of Rafael Nadal, earned himself the chance to atone for his compatriot’s first round loss by reaching the final of the Qatar Open.
Ferrer’s victory in three tie-break sets against Ivo Karlovic ended a remarkable sequence from a unique opponent, who became the first active player to pass 9,000 aces on Wednesday, knocked out the world number one Novak Djokovic on Thursday, and delivered 30 aces which carried him past the former US Open champion Andy Roddick’s total of 9,074 on Friday.
Karlovic is stil1 1,111 aces behind Croatian compatriot Goran Ivanisevic’s 10,183, which is the all-time record, but he allowed two tight chances of reaching the final to slip away in the second and third sets.
That though had much to do with Ferrer’s stubbornness and courage in a 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) win in which there were no breaks of serve.
“It’s like a penalty to receive serve against him,” said fourth seed Ferrer.
“His serve is unbelievable, and so I know that one or two mistakes on my own serve, and I was beaten.
Some of them occurred in a second set tie-break which was a tale of two forehands, and in which Ferrer was twice within two points of winning the match after reaching 5-4.
The first forehand was Ferrer’s who made a geometry-defying passing shot to reach 3-3 just when it seemed certain Karlovic would make the first mini-break for 4-2.
The second was Karlovic’s, which looked as though it was going to land for a winner to take him to 6-5, and needing just one good serve to finish the match.
But it landed just wide, and Ferrer came up with a reflex blocked return of serve on the next point to reach one set all.
Karlovic did get a mini-break up in the third-set tie-breaker, reaching 3-2 when Ferrer put a forehand drive, normally his safest shot, into the net.
But a dinked pass and a service return to the feet changed everything, earning Ferrer both points on Karlovic’s next pair of serves.
He closed it out with a plunging service return which set up a chance for a backhand pass, something he celebrated with unusual emotion, covering his face in his hands.
“I shall try not to think of who I’m playing next — I shall just enjoy this first,” Ferrer said.
He was in any case left to wait to see whether his attempt at winning his 21st career title would be against Tomas Berdych, the third-seeded Czech, or Andreas Seppi, the unseeded Italian.
It was appropriate that the fourth-seeded Spaniard should especially enjoy his moment on centre stage.