LONDON (Reuters) - Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic doused the fire of Fernando Gonzalez at Wimbledon on Friday to reach the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time.
The rugged world number 64, with tattoos on both arms, a stud in his eyebrow and red tennis strings, withstood the most fearsome forehand in tennis and saved a match point before winning 6-3 3-6 6-4 4-6 8-6.
Fifth seed Gonzalez, the Australian Open runner-up, is the biggest casualty so far in the men’s draw.
Gonzalez, who beat Tipsarevic at Queen’s Club earlier this month, was subdued for long periods and his frustration boiled over when he fluffed a backhand to hand Tipsarevic a two sets to one lead, slamming his racket into the turf.
The slow-burning contest came to life at the end of the fourth when Gonzalez broke at 5-4 to level.
He had his chances to win it. He served for the match at 5-3 in the decider only to be broken and had a match point on Tipsarevic’s serve at 6-5 but sent a tame backhand into the net.
Tipsarevic broke for 7-6 coming into the net for a volley and held his nerve to convert his second match point and set up a fourth round match against Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero.
With Novak Djokovic ranked fourth in the world, Jelena Jankovic third and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic sixth, these are heady days for Serbian tennis.
Belgrade-based Tipsarevic, whose sports teacher father Pavel once scraped together money to finance his son’s career by renting skis in his spare time, struggles to explain the rise.
“People keep asking me, how is this possible?” he told reporters. “What is happening in this country? Maybe some radiation from the (NATO) bombing or stuff.
“The situation in our country was really bad, there were no sponsors, no Federation, no nothing. I’m not blaming anybody, the political situation was a mess and you could only imagine tennis, one of the most expensive sport in the world.”
Gonzalez said the windy conditions had troubled him.
“I never felt one game comfortable on the court because it was like the wrong wind,” he said. “It’s the same for both players but for my game, I couldn’t loosen up. I was really tight. I’m really disappointed with this match today.”