David Ferrer is Exactly Where He Wants To Be
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
David Ferrer is exactly where he wants to be. Over the past few years he has made himself into the most consistent player in the game outside the “Big 4”. He is a warrior on the court who plays a dogged, determined defensive game that frustrates and wears down his opponents. He rarely loses matches to lesser opponents. His tenacity and consistency has brought him up to a career-high ranking of World #4, and he can honestly be within striking distance of #2 in the coming months.
Aside from his hard-working, fighting play, Ferrer is also known (unfortunately) for not being able to beat the top players. He doesn’t have the power to hit past Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, and their consistency, weight, and depth of shot really gets past Ferrer. Djokovic and Nadal do the same thing Ferrer does, only better. Federer , one of the cleanest ball-strikers in tennis history, is just a terrible matchup for Ferrer’s style.
As we saw in their tough duel on Sunday, Murray is really the only one of the “Big 4” that Ferrer can beat. Ferrer can go toe-to-toe with Murray from all over the court and can find a way to wear Murray down or even hit the winning shot in a rally, something he can’t do against the other three top players. Being seeded against Murray has been Ferrer’s dream draw for the past few years, because it greatly increases Ferrer’s chances of getting that one round farther in a big tournament.
Ferrer probably benefited the most from Nadal’s absence in the second half of 2012. First of all, it meant that a player who Ferrer basically can’t beat on even terms wouldn’t be competing. Second of all, it gave Ferrer a chance to have his own quarter of the draw and not worry about meeting the other “Big 4” members until the semifinals. And Ferrer took full advantage of this, reaching the semis of both Slams in which he was a top 4 seed. Also, by winning the Masters 1000 tournament in Bercy he gave himself a nice boost to pass Nadal in the rankings before Rafa returned.
This is where we reach the important part. Ferrer saw an opening that he was granted and, like he almost always does, took it. He has basically solidified his position ahead of Nadal until Wimbledon (as long as he doesn’t do incredibly poorly at the clay Masters events). This means that he only has a 25% chance of meeting Nadal before the semifinals at the big clay tournaments. If he can avoid having Nadal drawn in his quarter, he will be a strong favorite to reach the semis at Monte-Carlo (which Federer is skipping so he can’t meet Nadal earlier anyway), Rome, Madrid, and Roland Garros.
What might be even more important than that to Ferrer, rankings-wise, actually occurred because he lost to Miami final to Murray. That win allowed Murray to move to World #2. If Djokovic and Federer are the top 2, then Ferrer will meet one of them in a semifinal. But with Murray ranked ahead of Federer, Ferrer now has a 50% chance of being drawn in Murray’s half. Murray is better than Ferrer, but head-to-head Ferrer is a slight favorite on clay. This means that, if the current rankings hold until the French Open, Ferrer actually has a chance to avoid all of Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal until the final of a Masters or a Slam.
The draw has always been big for Ferrer. It was always about avoiding those other top players that provide a near-impossible matchup as long as possible. Now, though, the draw could be Ferrer’s best friend. The odds are that he will get his dream draw at least once out of the 4 big clay tournaments coming up (the three clay Masters and the French Open). It is likely that, at least once, Ferrer will be able to reach a big final and be relatively well-rested in doing so. And maybe, just maybe, in a one-match situation the warrior can produce some more of the magic that we’ve grown to love.