DOHA: 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 goes on to face Tomas Berdych for the title after a victory in three tie-break sets against Ivo Karlovic ended a remarkable sequence from a unique opponent.
The giant Croatian 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.
“I didn’t have any chance in the first set. But the match was so close and I enjoy these kind of matches. It all depended on certain points.”
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.
Ferrer’s opponent in Saturday’s final will be Berdych, the third-seeded Czech who outplayed Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-3 and who appears to be the form player of the tournament, so far not having dropped a service game.
“So far it’s been a good week,” Berdych said. “It’s important to me to have a week like this –- but it’s not over yet.
“I watched the other semi-final and you can see that David (Ferrer) is a very tough guy.”
Nadal was not completely out of the limelight.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion followed his shock loss to Michael Berrer, a qualifier from Germany ranked outside the top 100, when he won the doubles with Juan Monaco of Argentina, beating Julian Knowle and Philipp Oswald of Austria 6-3, 6-4.
Although a doubles title in a 250 category event may not sound like much for one of the greatest singles players of all time, it might nevertheless prove important for Nadal as he tries to recover adequate physical fitness ahead of the Australian Open in ten days’ time.