By Martyn Herman
PARIS, June 2 Claycourt warrior Tommy Robredo came back from the brink yet again to beat fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and reach the quarter-finals of the French Open on Sunday.
The 31-year-old Robredo looked down and out when he trailed by two sets and 4-1 on Suzanne Lenglen court but produced a stunning fightback to outlast the 11th seed 6-7(5) 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-4 after a three-hour-49-minute baseline battle.
It was the third match in a row that Robredo had performed a Houdini act from a two-set deficit, the first player to achieve that feat in a grand slam since Frenchman Henri Cochet at Wimbledon in 1927, and was overcome with emotion at the end.
"It's funny, because the last three, four years I couldn't even run that much," Robredo, whose career seemed in doubt last year when he missed five months because of hamstring surgery and dropped to 471 in the world rankings, told reporters.
"I lost the first, I lost the second, and I had pain in my arm and couldn't even hold the racket a couple of games.
"Then suddenly I recovered. He was 4-1-up. Maybe he had a little bit of doubt at that moment. Then I just pushed hard and I won the third. Then I was just dreaming and dreaming to try to do it again, and I did it."
Robredo saved four match points on his way to beating Frenchman Gael Monfils in the previous round and before that beat Igor Sijsling, also from two sets back.
He found himself in a big hole again after Almagro edged a tough first set and was overpowered in the second by the stocky 11th seed who looked in total control and on course for his sixth win out of six against the former world number five.
Robredo had not won a set off Almagro since their first meeting in 2007 but with nothing to lose he began to take greater risks.
His single-handed backhand, one of the most eye-catching in the game, began to find its range and suddenly it was Almagro who was being stretched in the baseline rallies.
Having levelled the match at two sets all, Robredo fell a break behind in the decider but produced one final fightback to seal a memorable victory when Almagro netted a backhand volley.
Robredo faces more hard graft in the quarter-finals, where he will be appearing for a fifth time when he faces compatriot and fourth seed David Ferrer.
"Tommy is back," Ferrer, whose rise to the world's top five has led to him surpassing Robredo in Spain's pecking order, said.
"He had a difficult year. It was difficult for him to gather his strengths together again but he's done that. And he's one of the best players on clay." (Editing by Clare Fallon and Sonia Oxley)