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Best Grand Slam & Olympic Matches Of The Year - Nos. 3-5

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Ferrer© Getty ImagesDavid Ferrer fought from down a break in the fifth set to edge Janko Tipsarevic in the US Open quarter-finals. reviews the Top 5 Grand Slam and Olympic matches of the year, beginning with Nos. 5-3. 

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5. David Ferrer d. Janko Tipsarevic, 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), US Open Quarter-finals
While the three other quarter-final matches at the 2012 US Open featured Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, spectators who came out to Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch David Ferrer and Janko Tipsarevic duel for a place in the semi-finals were treated to arguably the most riveting match of the round.

“It’s not maybe a quarter-final which they wanted to see, but I think David and me -  and not trying to overexaggerate anything  - played, until now at least, the best match of the tournament,” said Tipsarevic after the match. “I’m happy that the crowd appreciated that coming into the fifth set tie-break.”

The spectators saluted both competitors in the four-hour, 31-minute battle, sending them into the fifth set tie-break with a standing ovation. Earlier in the set, a tie-break had seemed unlikely. Tipsarevic had gone up an early break, but after taking a hard fall at the end of the sixth game, he relinquished his lead with a backhand wide on double break point. He found himself under pressure once again two games later as Ferrer engineered two break point chances. This time, the Serbian reeled off four straight points to stay on serve.

Ferrer also maintained his composure, and with his 15th ace, ensured that the outcome would be decided in a tie-break. Fitting of the tightly contested match, one mini-break proved enough for the Spaniard to claim the victory.

“It was a very emotional match, one of the best emotional matches of my career,” he said afterwards. “My opponent, he also deserved to win this match. In one tie-break it’s a lottery, and I had luck in important moments.”

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Federer4. Roger Federer d. Juan Martin del Potro, 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17, London 2012 Olympics Semi-finals
How much would you give to compete in the gold medal match? The answer was loud and clear when Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro faced off in the semi-finals of the London 2012 Olympics. Lasting four hours and 26 minutes, the match set an Open Era record for a best-of-three sets encounter. “I definitely got a sense that it was something special,” Federer said.

Del Potro made the better start to the match, played on Centre Court at the All England Club, racing through the opening set in 36 minutes. The Argentine had a golden opportunity to take the lead at 2-2 in the second set, but Federer battled through a 14-point game as he recovered from 0/30 and faced down a break point. In the tie-break, the Swiss kept his gold medal hopes alive as he struck an ace on his second set point opportunity.

The tension rose in the deciding set, which lasted two hours and 47 minutes in itself, with the two players partaking in lengthy battles and coming up with crucial saves on break points. Del Potro was the first to crack, mistiming a forehand at 9-9 to concede a break, but broke the reigning Wimbledon champion at love in the next game to leave the crowd transfixed. He continued to show nerves of steel as he coolly recovered from 0/40 down at 14-14, but Federer could not be held at bay much longer. The Swiss broke del Potro six games later and served himself into the gold medal match at the second time of asking.

Federer embraced del Potro at the net, and shared afterwards, “I told him to be proud, that he played a great match.” Del Potro, who fought back tears as he left the court to a standing ovation, said: “It is tough to speak now, I feel sad. But Roger played a fantastic match, he is a good winner. I’m very sad at the moment. It’s not an easy situation. Someone always has to win these matches and today it was him.”

Federer went on to take the silver medal, finishing runner-up to British No. 1 Andy Murray, while del Potro claimed the bronze with victory over Novak Djokovic.

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Murray3. Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic, 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, US Open Final
In their previous 13 meetings coming into the US Open final, the player who had won the first set between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had gone on to win the match. The importance of that statistic was never more apparent than on that blustery Monday on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Lasting 87 minutes and featuring grueling baseline rallies, including one that totalled 54 shots, the opening set established the tone for a contest that would equal the longest championship match in tournament history.

The final began with two service breaks as both players initially struggled with the wind. Murray, looking to reverse an 0-4 record in Grand Slam finals and become the first British man to win a major since 1936, went ahead another service break, 3-2, only to see the defending champion counter and draw level three games later. With Djokovic two points from winning the set at 5-3 in the tie-break, Murray reeled off three straight points to reach his first set point. It would take five more set points before the Briton pulled through to clinch the longest tie-break in a US Open final at 24 minutes.

The ensuing sets followed in similar fashion. Djokovic refused to be counted down and out, but even when he rallied from down 0-4 to get back on serve in the second set and when he came back from a two-sets-to-love deficit to force a fifth set, it was not enough to stand in the way of Murray and his history-making run. Back on level ground, Murray went up a double break in the fifth set and never looked back. After four hours and 54 minutes, Murray claimed his elusive Grand Slam title as Djokovic returned a forehand long on his second championship point.

“When the conditions have been like they have been, you need to focus so hard on almost every shot because the ball is very hard to control,” said Murray. “So mentally it was challenging, aside from it being a Slam final and having not won one before, playing against Novak who, on this surface in the Slams, I don’t think he’s lost for a couple of years. It was an incredibly tough match and obviously it felt great at the end.  Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I’m feeling just now.”

Djokovic, who came to Murray’s end of the court to congratulate his friend, was gracious in defeat. “He absolutely deserves it,” he said. “I gave it all. It was another tremendous match to be a part of.”

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Coming Friday: The 2 Best Grand Slam Matches of 2012

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