Die Hard: Tipsarevic's Final Tournament Ends On 10th Match Point
For all of Janko Tipsarevic’s technical abilities, the Serbian’s greatest asset was on full display on Friday at the Intrum Stockholm Open: his heart
Tipsarevic saved a staggering nine match points, most of them with clean winners, before Japanese Yuichi Sugita prevailed in their dramatic 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(4) quarter-final. The 35-year-old refused to go away quietly, literally bringing Sugita to his knees with his tenacity as both men began cramping in the final stages of the match.
Although every ATP Tour player’s dream is to end their career with a title, a match that more closely resembled a street fight was an almost equally fitting finish for Tipsarevic.
”If I were to choose one of the ways to finish my career, it would be like this, leaving everything on the court,” Tipsarevic said in his on-court interview after the match. “I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
Tipsarevic, who will officially retire after next month’s Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, received a standing ovation from those in attendance. A video tribute then played on Centre Court that highlighted the greatest moments of his career.
”Dealing with different emotions is what I will miss the most. Those butterflies in your stomach before and after the match, there’s nothing like it,” Tipsarevic said in the video. “I enjoy seeing the world. You really have a tremendous ability to see different cultures, meet different people. This way of living, if you really devote yourself 100 per cent to it, makes you mentally tough.”
Janko Tipsarevic's Key Stats
Years Played: 17
Win-Loss Record: 288-257
ATP Tour Titles: 4
ATP Tour Finals Played: 11
Nitto ATP Finals Appearances: 2 (2011-2012)
Career-High ATP Ranking: 8 (April 2012)
The Serbian was visibly moved by the presentation and thanked those in attendance for their support. He also vowed to not be a stranger to tennis and said he intends to maintain the relationships he’s built during his 17-year ATP Tour career.
“I see you’re trying to make me cry now. It is [working],” Tipsarevic joked. “I feel happy, proud, sad. There’s a tremendous amount of mixed emotions happening right now… Even though I’m incredibly sad right now, I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.
“The ATP [Tour] is a tremendous part of my life and a huge part of my future. I see myself staying connected to this beautiful sport.”
Sugita cruised through the opening set, but Tipsarevic remained patient and waited for his turn to strike. At 4-4 in the second set, the Serbian broke serve with a forehand winner and let out a roar of delight. He then comfortably held in the next game to force a decider.
Both players traded comfortable service holds for most of the final set, but the last few games of the match were anything but that. Tipsarevic saved four match points on his serve at 4-5 with aggressive baseline play, bringing the crowd to their feet when a forehand winner completed a Houdini act to even the score.
But the Serbian wasn’t done. He saved four more match points at 5-6 with three forehand winners and a smash. A ninth match point came and went as Sugita pushed a backhand long. With the Japanese struggling to bend his knees as cramps began to take over his left leg, Tipsarevic forced a tie-break with yet another forehand winner.
An impossible comeback suddenly looked realistic when Tipsarevic took a 2/0 lead in the tie-break, but Sugita bravely responded by going on a five-point run. A forehand into the net from Tipsarevic set up two more match points for Sugita and the Japanese finally converted, reacting with a mix of exhaustion and delight after a backhand unforced error from the Serbian wrapped up the match after three hours and 10 minutes.
”This is one of the most emotional matches for me,” said Sugita, who will now face #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the semi-finals. “I just tried my best.”