Melbourne: Three times in the first four sets, David Ferrer faced the prospect of being ousted of the Australian Open by a fellow Spaniard who'd never beaten him in a dozen competitive matches.
The No. 4-seeded Ferrer survived once in the third set and twice in the fourth when No. 10 Nicolas Almagro was serving for the match, but held firm and finally advanced to his fourth semifinal in six Grand Slam events with a 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-2 win on Tuesday.
"It was (a) miracle I won this match, I think," Ferrer said. "I tried to fight every point, that's my game. I always to fight."
Almagro dominated the first two sets and was serving for the match in the third when Ferrer bounced back, breaking in the crucial 10th game and then breaking his Davis Cup teammate again.
The fourth set featured eight service breaks, and Ferrer finally took control in a tiebreaker to force a fifth set.
Almagro has played 33 consecutive majors, but never reached a semifinal. This was his first Grand Slam quarterfinal on any surface other than clay - he reached three quarterfinals at the French - and he really took the match to Ferrer, the leading Spaniard in the tournament with the absence of 11-time major winner Rafael Nadal.
Almagro hurt his upper left leg late in the fourth set and needed a medical timeout before the fifth. After holding serve in a long game to open the fifth set, he quickly wilted after the first break.
On the last point, he hit a service return back into play and had already started strolling to the net as Ferrer prepared to hit the winner.
As he left the court, he gave his compatriot a friendly pat on the back as Ferrer packed his bag on the courtside chairs, then left Rod Laver Arena.
"In the important moments, I played more consistent in my game," he said. "Of course, in the next round, the semifinals, I need to play my best tennis, better than today."
He will next play either Novak Djokovic, who is bidding for a third consecutive Australian title - unprecedented in the Open era - or No. 5 Tomas Berdych. Ferrer has played four semifinals in Grand Slams and lost them all.
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