David Ferrer Playing the Best Tournament of his Career; How Far Can he Go?
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
David Ferrer is once again flying under the radar. He is never really considered a threat to win Major tournaments so he is never really a storyline. He is a talented player who plays a very strong defensive game and very rarely gets upset by players he is better than. He is known for being solid and consistent, strong enough to never lose to those outside the “Big 4” but never having enough to beat them.
That is why, even to those who have watched his matches so far, no one is really talking about David Ferrer. His matches are predictable. He gets just about every shot back and just wears his opponents down. He makes lots of great shots but no highlight-reel incredible ones. All in all, he’s doing what we thought he’d do.
Everyone knows that Ferrer should have won all of the matches he’s played so far. That’s what Ferrer does. He beats everyone outside the “Big 4” and even beats Murray on clay. But no one seemingly cares because when he reaches the “Big 4” in the semifinals, he fights for a while and then loses. That is the trajectory of David Ferrer’s Grand Slam career these past few years.
Well, it’s time for us to start paying attention because this is not your normal Ferrer. We’ve seen him improving all year. He won the Masters event in Bercy last year, which has really seemed to spur him on mentally. He hasn’t been dominant since then, but there has been a marked improvement in mentality. He lost to Murray in the Miami Masters final but impressed in doing so before checking out mentally in the third-set tiebreak.
Ferrer wasn’t at his best after that due to injury, but he came back with a vengeance in both clay Masters in May. He beat both Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas when they were playing great tennis and met Nadal in the third round of both tournaments. He won a set in each and the matches were much closer that the third-set scores indicated.
Ferrer is still outmatched when he plays the “Big 4”. They still have too much power and consistency overall for Ferrer’s game to work effectively against them. But Ferrer looks like he will no longer check out mentally. When he played Nadal those two matches he came in with a great game plan and executed to perfection. It wasn’t enough in the end either time, but that shouldn’t change the fact that Ferrer came closer to beating Nadal on clay than he had in a very long time.
And Ferrer came in to this tournament and has been lights-out since. He has broken serve a whopping 35 times. That’s an average of 7 breaks per match. In comparison, Nadal in 2008, which is widely considered his best year, broke serve 51 times in the tournament. Ferrer has not yet faced the elite competition of the final rounds, but he’s tearing through this field at a Rafa-like pace.
Ferrer was also given a gift by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who took out Roger Federer in their quarterfinal match. Ferrer has trouble with Federer but should be able to neutralize Tsonga’s massive serve. Tsonga and Ferrer are the only two players left in the tournament who have not yet dropped a set. That can’t last more than one round, but it is clear that both of them are playing at a level where whoever wins that match can challenge even Djokovic or Nadal in the final. The semifinal will be a tough match for Ferrer, but it is very clear that this is his biggest opportunity ever on a Grand Slam stage. And while nerves have been a massive problem for him in the past, it looks like Ferrer might finally be at a point where he can not buckle when push comes to shove.