Chardy reaches SA Open final
Into the final (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Amiable 21 year-old Frenchman Jeremy Chardy kept a birthday promise to reach the final of the South African Open while beating second-seeded David Ferrer 1-6, 7-6 (11/9), 7-6 (7/4) in a two hour 40 minute marathon at Montecasino on Saturday afternoon to provide the shock of the R5 million tournament.
It was a semi-final turnabout in steamy, oppressive conditions made more startling by the fact the fancied Ferrer, ranked 13th in the world against his opponent's 61st, had five match-points in the second set, hurled his racket into the net from the baseline like a javelin thrower after frustratingly surrendering the second set and then smashed another racket to smithereens after ultimately losing the match.
In between the destruction, the game produced tennis drama of the highest order as the up-and-coming Chardy staged a remarkable recovery after losing the first set tamely in 27 minutes and then proceeding to match his rock-solid Spanish opponent and ultimately outplay him with a greater degree of flair.
Chardy, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday, completed the match in astonishing fashion by serving three successive aces after gaining a mini-break in the final set tiebreaker and then leaving even the quicksilver Ferrer flat-footed on match-point.
It was an admirable exhibition of talent from the relatively unknown fifth-seed and emphasised the conveyor-belt regularity in which France is producing such players - with 14 of them currently ranked in the top 100 in the world and three in the top 20.
Ferrer, for his part, must be wondering how he lost a game which he had planned would help him restore his position among the world's top 10 players.
And, in truth, the main reason might lie in the quality play of his opponent with an ability to produce huge serves when they were most needed and forehands of astonishing poise and power.
But losing after earlier being so dominant - and haunted by the failed five match-points - tended to make the normally urbane Spaniard ready to hit the ceiling.