by James A. Crabtree
David Ferrer has been an elite top ten player for a considerable amount of time. He has made four grand slam semi-finals and won three Davis Cup titles for Spain.
He has also won eighteen career titles and leads the 2012 tour with titles won in Paris, Valencia , Bastad , s-Hertogenbosch , Acapulco , Buenos Aires and Auckland . If you weren’t counting that is seven titles and on every surface.
Not bad for a guy who could have ended up on a building site.
“Once, as a teenager, when Ferrer did not practice hard enough, his coach, Javier Piles, locked him in a completely dark 2m x 2m ball closet for several hours, giving him only a piece of bread and a bit of water. After this incident he was fed up with tennis and went to work at a construction site, but after a week he returned to Piles and asked if he could remain at the club and play tennis. As of 2012, he is still coached by Piles and has said he considers him a second father.”
Simply put Ferrer is a player who has become a tennis master on the grandest of stages because of necessity. Not only does he have the talent, but also the determination needed to match it to become successful. It is obvious that he has found his resolve from hours and hours on the practice court then consistently polished it to a winning formula when the points have counted. Judgement and retort, dependability and dexterity. The guy’s feet never ever stop moving, even on a changeover.
But should David Ferrer be an elite player? Well, no, depending on whom you ask?
For a start experts believe an elite player should be 6’1 or taller and they should possess a dominant serve. The majority of technicians believe a player should hit the forehand with a circular ark. Fans believe a player should have one dominate stroke that strikes fear into any foe.
On the face of it David Ferrer has none of these attributes. For a start he is listed at the most popular actor height of 5’9, which puts him at eye level with Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro. He isn’t intimidating like Del Potro, flashy like Tsonga or powerful like Berdych. In fact of all men ranked within the top 10 some would argue that Ferrer is the least talked about. He doesn’t have a dominate stroke and he scurries around the court in between points like a man without a coat on a cold winters night.
However during point play the scurrying takes on a whole new form. His side stepping baseline coverage beggars belief. Most importantly he takes charge when returning serve. Statistically speaking in 2012 he ranked within the top five for points won on the first serve, second serve and return games won. He is fourth on the all-time list of career return games won, winning 35%. In layman’s terms the servers are under pressure. Once the ball comes back the pressure is compounded by the consistent grinding that has been the major characteristic of his career, and the success of his most recent win in Paris.
A career that could have been very different, it’s safe to say that this determined little Spaniard has made the right choice in pursuing a professional tennis career over that of a very different sort of grind.