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Diminutive David Ferrer will forever stand tall

David Ferrer has bowed out of the US Open. (Yann Caradec / CC BY-SA 2.0)
Expert
28th August, 2018
5

There are a multitude of reasons as to why the Duracell Bunny that is David Ferrer will be remembered.

Be it when a teenage Ferrer got locked in a dark tennis cupboard for hours by his coach Javier Piles, with only bread and water, because he refused to practice.

Who can forget the time when, in a fit of pique, he fired a tennis ball towards a crying baby who was apparently distracting him from his game at the 2011 Miami Open?

But, I would like to think, he will be celebrated as a magnificent warrior, who achieved a superb career and continually punched above his weight and diminutive stature.

It is impossible to perfectly encapsulate what the former world number three is all about – except if it comes from the man himself.

“Run down one more ball, force the opponent to win the point over and over again, hustle from side to side, scrape a shot together when your opponent is already celebrating, defend until the end,” he said after his loss at the US Open

“I still have that in me.”

Unfortunately, that last sentence is becoming harder to achieve.

The 36-year-old’s grand slam farewell was ruined by a calf injury at the US Open on Monday when, shockingly, he was battling away and giving defending champion Rafael Nadal a real fight.

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An athlete who was known for his indefatigable stamina and impeccable conditioning, evidenced by him appearing in 50 consecutive majors from 2003-15, is now seemingly unable to evade Father Time.

His record in 2018 is nine wins and 18 losses. For the first time since 2002, he has fallen out of the top 100. He has also lost in the first round of every major this year – a career first.

But how often have players in their mid 30s continued to be at the top of the game? Very few.

This does not detract one iota from what this man has achieved.

He was a permanent fixture in the top 10 from 2010-15, featured at the World Tour Finals for six straight years, won 27 titles and is at number 12 on the all-time list of match wins, with 726.

This is ahead of the likes of slam winners Boris Becker (713), Arthur Ashe (667), Michael Chang (662), Mats Wilander (571) and Jim Courier (506).

He has won head-to-heads against Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic, to name but a few.

In 2012 he won more matches than anyone else, with 76, and in that year he also won more titles than anyone else, with seven.

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And he did all of this, and more, at a height of 5’9”. That cannot be stressed enough.

For a player who is regularly towered over by his counterparts, he has stood tall throughout his career, maintaining a consistency at the top which has been staggeringly impressive.

Ferrer’s serve rarely exceeds 120 mph, he couldn’t blow his opponents off the court with his power, and he does not have that margin for error that others take for granted.

And yet for years he was the next best player behind Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. That should not be downplayed.

The ‘Little Beast’, who is right up there in terms of being the greatest player to never win a slam, possessed a superb ability to hug the baseline and take the ball early, robbing his opponent of time.

Simona Halep’s coach, Darren Cahill, once said Ferrer was the sport’s best returner, alongside Djokovic, and Federer went one better by saying he was at the top of the rostrum for that aspect of the game.

What player of his height achieved what he has in the modern game? Not many.

He may not have been the flashiest tennis has ever seen, but he will exit the sport, after playing in Barcelona or Madrid in 2019, as one of its most consummate professionals.

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Vamos David!