Clijsters recovers from 1-5, 0-40 hole

Ana Ivanovic and Andrea Petkovic were scheduled to play doubles together Tuesday evening at the Sony Ericsson Open. But their fortunes unfolded in such dramatically different ways that both ended up exhausted – Ivanovic through total despair and Petkovic as a result of battling through to a second great upset win in two days. So they compared notes and decided to pull out.

Petkovic, a rising star of women’s tennis by virtue of her flair, humor and powerful play, followed her shocking defeat of world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki by overcoming seventh-seeded Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

But that quarterfinal didn’t have nearly the drama of another women’s match that had overflow crowds clinging to the bleachers on Court Two, where Ivanovic’s fourth-round encounter against Clijsters had been rescheduled after a rain delay.

Ivanovic, going for her service returns and playing some of her best tennis of the year, reached the very brink of victory when she led the U.S. Open champion 5-1 in the third set and 0-40 on Kim’s serve. Three match points. Two went begging and Ivanovic netted a forehand on the third. Then came match point No. 4, and Ivanovic overhit her forehand. Clijsters hung on by swinging at her groundstrokes and attacking whenever she could, but she was in trouble again at 3-5 when Ivanovic reached match point No. 5. But she fluffed that one, too, and then dropped her own serve to level the set 5-5.

A double fault put the Serb in dire straits when the tiebreak started and she was trailing 1-4 before staging a mini-revival, aided by a good crosscourt backhand and a Clijsters double fault. Nerves were jangling and the crowd was going nuts. Somehow, Ivanovic had the courage to go for a forehand down the line and score for 5-all. Was the match going to turn inside out a second time? No such luck for Ivanovic, who put a backhand wide and lost the breaker 7-5 to go down 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (5).

After a little cry, she was remarkably upbeat afterwards. “Whatever the ranking says, I think Kim is the hottest player out there at the moment,” Ivanovic said. “It was going to be a good test for me, and I managed to stay out there with her physically and also to create opportunities and lots of match points for myself. That’s a very positive thing for me.”

Clijsters was complimentary. “She was playing really well,” Clijsters said. “It’s been a long time since I have seen her play like that. But, in my situation, the good thing about it is that it’s never over until that last shot is played – even if it’s 5-1. OK, you start a game at 0-0. She has to win four more points. So you just try to work your way into it. And you do feel it when your opponent starts to be a little less aggressive. You see her look over at the sideline a bit more. Those kind of things, I notice that and I think it gave me little bit of . . . like, you know, maybe there is a little chance.”

To put it in historical perspective, this was the biggest comeback from a hopeless situation since American Chanda Rubin escaped from 0-40, 0-5 in the third set against Jana Novotna at the French Open in 1995. Delving into “The Bud Collins History of Tennis,” we also find Mary Joe Fernandez’s comeback from 1-6, 1-5 and 30-40 against Gabriela Sabatini, also at Roland Garros, in 1993. But that’s the beauty of the tennis scoring system. It’s never over until it’s over.

That seemed true of Maria Sharapova’s quarterfinal match against 28th-ranked Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania, which passed the midnight hour and threatened to go on forever.

There was more drama when Sharapova, having just broken back from 4-5 in the third set, went over on her ankle and immediately called the trainer. Her ankle was strapped as some of the crowd screeched at the sight of Sharapova’s ankle at right angles on a big-screen replay, but the injury was evidently not as bad as it looked and the Russian was able to resume, coming up with a superb crosscourt backhand winner to prove she was still intent on victory. She finally got it after an amazing 3-hour, 28-minute slugfest that saw her hit 35 winners to her opponent’s 12 and win – despite 17 double faults – by a score of 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5).

The reorganized schedule after Tuesday’s rain sent Novak Djokovic to the distant Grandstand Court to play his Serbian Davis Cup colleague Victor Troicki. Such is Djokovic’s dominance as a player and personality among that tight-knit squad that Troicki was as likely to win as Will Scarlet would have been likely to out-duel Robin Hood. They are a merry band, all right, but Djokovic rules the roost, and he duly moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Having played half a set against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the early afternoon, following their rain suspension overnight, Alexandr Dogopolov found himself back on Stadium Court with a bigger problem on his hands – Rafael Nadal. Even if he would have had enough gas in the tank, the fourth-round result probably would have still been the same – 6-1, 6-2 to Rafa.

That puts Nadal through to meet Tomas Berdych in the quarters, the Czech having squeaked through in a tough one against talented German Florian Mayer 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

It was a mixed day for the two American men left in the draw. Mardy Fish scored a big victory over Juan Martin del Potro, 7-5, 7-6 (5), but John Isner went down 6-3, 7-6 (4) to Kevin Anderson, a man who serves almost as big as Isner. Anderson is a rapidly improving South African who seems to play much of his best tennis at Key Biscayne. In 2008, Anderson scored a huge upset here by beating Djokovic a week after the Serb had won Indian Wells.

Janko Tipsarevic, the fifth Serbian player on view Tuesday, joined three defeated colleagues when he succumbed to the relentless efficiency of Gilles Simon’s groundstrokes and lost to the slender Frenchman 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Because of the rain delays, Roger Federer did not get on court until 12.40 a.m. ET Wednesday for his match against a boyhood rival, Olivier Rochus of Belgium. Happily, his friend did not delay proceedings too long. Rochus lost 6-3, 6-1 in 52 minutes.