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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nine miracle workers at the U.S. Open vehemently disagree with abolishing best-of-five set matches at grand slam events, for without the extended format they would have been on the next plane out of JFK Airport.
Janko Tipsarevic, Gilles Muller and Ernests Gulbis joined a growing list of players recovering from the abyss of two-set deficits at Flushing Meadows on Wednesday amid debate for best-of-three set clashes in the early rounds at grand slam events.
Tipsarevic defeated French wildcard Guillaume Rufin 4-6 3-6 6-2 6-3 6-2, Muller edged 28th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny 2-6 3-6 7-5 7-6 7-6 while Latvian Gulbis beat Germany's Tommy Haas 3-6 4-6 6-4 7-5 6-3 in another Houdini escape act filled with drama and engrossing theatre.
"I saw there is talk about best of three," said Tipsarevic. "But this is part of the grand slam. I had to grind and suffer and do whatever was necessary to win."
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and leading commentator Darren Cahill are among those offering support to an abbreviated format but the drama provided by the nine wars of attrition at Flushing Meadows this week have proved the attraction of players being forced to go the distance.
Tipsarevic, Muller and Gulbis joined Fabio Fognini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Philipp Petzschner, Paul Henri-Mathieu and Marin Cilic as players who would have been packing their bags without the opportunity to drag themselves back from the brink.
Dolgopolov's epic revival came from two sets and 0-4. He was even one point away from trailing 0-5 in the third set against American Jesse Levine.
Cahill has supported best-of-three matches after the format had him on the edge of his seat at the London Olympics but John McEnroe applauded the drama of Tipsarevic's comeback.
"It's great to see," said McEnroe, a Hall of Famer and nine-times grand slam champion. "It's the last major of the year, players are spent - when you see these guys, you take pleasure as an ex-player to see them digging deep."
Muller's comeback efforts earned him a second-round showdown with Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt.
"I like best of five and they shouldn't change anything about it," he said. "It's tough and you have to be physically fit but everybody can do it if they work hard enough.
"It changes the dynamics of a match. I lost the first set 6-2 and had no chance. If it was best of three I would start to panic. But best of five, I could stay calm and wait for my chance."
Djokovic, who took just 73 minutes to beat Paolo Lorenzi in the opening round at Flushing Meadows, gave veiled support to the idea of shortened matches but admitted longer contests were part of the fabric of majors.
"I wouldn't deny it, definitely," he said at Cincinnati this month. "From one side it would be maybe better for us because then we could get more rest and not get into those long couple of hours matches.
"On the other hand, it's been a tradition of this sport for many years, and we all try to respect the tradition.
"That is why tennis is so global and respected throughout the world, because we keep our tradition, keep our tournaments. So it's a very fine line."
Editing by Steve Ginsburg