For the first time since 2010, when he lost to Arnaud Clermont, David Ferrer has lost a match at the Heineken Open.
Since that time the current world No 3 was unbeaten in Auckland, but that streak of 14 consecutive wins came to an end last night as he went down 6-4 7-6 to Yen-Hsun Lu, from Taiwan, in the semifinals.
Lu will play John Isner in a final that no-one would have predicted before this tournament started. Not because no-one thought Isner might get there, but it seemed inconceivable that Lu, who has a world ranking of 62, is 30 years old and had never made a final in his career, would beat Ferrer.
But beat him he did, by out running and out hitting the top seed. When the victory came, while there was applause from the crowd, there were also stunned faces.
Few people in the stadium would have ever seen Ferrer lose in Auckland and even with Ferrer there was a certain amount of shock from him.
"I think I didn't play so good, maybe one of the worst matches of my career," he said.
"Yesterday [against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez] I won in three sets and had a good game, but today I made a lot of mistakes, I don't know how many, but like a junior no?
"I think me and him have played better than today, it was not a good match, we made a lot of mistakes but of course in an important match he played better than me.
"He played more aggressive, was more consistent and he deserved the victory, but it was not a good match for sure."
Having given so much to this tournament over the years, Ferrer said this defeat wouldn't end his love affair with Auckland and he vowed to return in 2015.
"I am proud because I've won a lot of matches here in Auckland, now of course I'm sad because I had the chance to win another final and I lost."
But today at 2.30pm while Ferrer is on a plane to Melbourne, it will be Isner and Lu that everyone is focusing on.
Isner beat Roberto Bautista Agut, from Spain, 3-6 7-6 6-4 in the earlier semifinal yesterday.
It was yet another epic match from Isner. He has needed to play for three sets in all of his matches this week and against Bautista Agut had to battle back from his Spanish opponent serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
While Isner, who won this tournament in 2010, managed to get the victory, his assessment of the match was similar to Ferrer's of his defeat.
"I felt like I made a lot of mistakes out there, but I always make mistakes.
"I was missing some forehands that I don't normally miss, but at the same time he was simply playing better than me and he was the better player for the majority of that match.
"I just stuck with it mentally, I guess, and down 5-4 in the second set with him serving, I told myself to just play solid and at the very least get the return in and go from there.
"That's what I did and I was able to turn the match around. I still believed that I could get that match back to even."
Isner has been battling a sore ankle since this tournament began and last night he had it heavily strapped with ice. Earlier in the week there were fears he'd pull out of this tournament so he'd be fine for the Australian Open, but now he's got this far there's no risk of him pulling out.
"It responds very well when I ice it and that's what I'm going to do the rest of the day," he said of his ankle.
"But it comes to a point in these matches, the hour and a half mark or something, where it starts to get a bit painful.
"I'm just one match from winning this tournament. It would be amazing for me and that would be my main focus right now."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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