By John Delong
It will go down as the most bizarre match so far in this year’s Winston-Salem Open.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez endured a series of fireworks at the end and pulled out a 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over Donald Young in a third-round match on Center Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Garcia-Lopez watched as Young fought off three match points and broke back trailing 5-4 in the third set. Then in the tiebreak, the 31-year-old Spaniard fought off two match points himself, winning the last three points of the match to end a 2 hour, 49-minute marathon.
Garcia-Lopez, the No. 5 seed who came into the tournament ranked No. 32, was pleased afterward that he was able to pull out the third-set tiebreak after struggling earlier this summer in tiebreaks at various tournaments.
He lost a tiebreak in his second-round match against Dustin Brown, a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 victory on Monday.
“Of course, I’m really happy,” Garcia-Lopez said. “What can I say? The last matches in Europe on clay court I was losing a lot of tiebreaks. The other day I played Dustin Brown, I lost first set in a tiebreak. So many, many tiebreaks for me. But you know, at the end, I (was) lucky. Sometimes the tiebreak is a lottery, and, you know, I get the number. So that’s why I won.”
The win moved Garcia-Lopez into quarterfinal action on Thursday against Sam Querrey , who knocked off No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson in the match that followed on Center Court.
The fireworks started with Garcia-Lopez serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, after he had won the previous three games.
He had three match points, and appeared to have wrapped up the match with an overhead smash that was heading for the stands. But Young leaped high, stretched, and miraculously hit a return lob over Guillermo-Lopez’s head that was barely inside the baseline.
Had Young, the No. 11 seed, gone on to win, it would have clearly been the shot of the tournament.
“It was just reactionary, really,” Young said. “I wasn’t thinking. I just did whatever I had to do to get the ball back. It was exciting definitely to save a match point that way, but in the big picture it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to.”
Young wound up breaking and forcing the tiebreak on a Garcia-Lopez double fault.
Young then found himself up 6-4 in the tiebreak with two match points, but at 6-5 he double-faulted. Garcia-Lopez got the mini-break he needed on the next point, and then served out the match.
“I was kinda of two minds about what I wanted to do, go wide or go up the T,” Young said of the double fault. “Obviously it wasn’t the right play. And the second serve, I just rushed it a little bit and it was a double. Obviously any time you have match points after saving match points and you’ve played for almost three hours, it’s going to be tough to lose for sure.”
Garcia-Lopez, who has won three career ATP World Tour singles titles including one on clay earlier this year at Casablanca, said his goal is to continue to work his way up the rankings. His career best ranking is No. 23 in February of 2011.
“Three sets, three hours, 7-6 in the third, long rallies – obviously I’m tired,” he said. “It was really hot today, humid. But we have time to recover for tomorrow, so I’ll get some rest, get a good massage, and be ready for tomorrow.”
In other afternoon matches, Jerzy Janowicz beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; qualifier David Goffin extended his winning streak to 25 straight by beating Jarkko Nieminen 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; Yen-Hsun Lu beat Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2; Lukas Rosol beat Pablo Andujar 1-6, 6-2, 6-2; and Querrey beat Anderson 7-6 (4), 6-4.