By PJ Yeong
Current ATP Rank: 5
Born: Xàbia, Alicante, Spain
Resides: Valencia, Spain
Best Known For: Reaching the singles semifinals of the 2007 US Open and 2010 Australian Open; Winning Davis Cup 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Career Titles: 14
The Spanish team of tennis players is a massively popular bunch, especially with regards to Rafael Nadal/Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco, whose fangirls go by hundreds and thousands and millions. Now, David Ferrer may not get as much attention as his compatriots – to me, he sometimes seems to be overlooked – but he plays a pretty darn good game of tennis. In fact, “pretty darn good” is an underestimation, seeing that Ferrer currently sits at #5 in the world rankings, and has been consistent and solid throughout his career.
A Little History
Like most pro tennis players, Ferrer started training early on as a teenager. However, in stark contrast to his work ethic as an adult, Ferrer was quite lazy and unmotivated to train. His coach, Javier Piles, would then punish him by locking him up in a tiny storage room (used to store tennis balls) with a slice of bread and a bottle of water, and kept him there so long as he refused to train. Piles’ eccentric training methods, and Ferrer’s own lack of passion in the sport, caused him to leave the sport momentarily at the age of 17, but he soon returned, continued picking up his racquet, and never looked back.
Javier Piles remains Ferrer’s coach to date. The two shares a close relationship, with Ferrer acknowledging that Piles is like a second father to him.
Ferrer began his professional career in 2000, where he achieved success on the Futures and Challengers Tour. His steady rise in rankings began in 2005 – where he finished the year in the top 20 for the first time (at #14), and he has never failed to finish the year in the top 20 since then. As with most of the Spanish tennis players, Ferrer grew up on clay and cites clay as his favourite surface. However, his game translates well onto the hard courts. His best results in the Grand Slams are semi-final berths in the hard court slams: US Open 2007 and Australian Open 2011 (where he beat Rafael Nadal in both tournaments). He also qualified for the year end championships in three occasions: 2007 (where he reached the finals undefeated), 2010 and 2011.
Ferrer is a constant member of the Spanish Davis Cup team but he has since announced that he has played his last Davis Cup with Spain’s win last year.
In the light of Novak Djokovic winning the Australian Open, Roger Federer doing his thing to prove that old men of over 30 can still win tournaments, and young upstart Milos Raonic firing off the year by winning two titles, the discussion of David Ferrer and his achievements has been rather muted. And he is the leader in number of titles won in the season so far, with a win-loss record of 18-1.
Consider his 2012 to date. He started off the year by successfully defending his title at the Heineken Open in Auckland. He managed to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, where he was stopped by Djokovic. He then went on to the South American clay, where he took part in the Golden Swing. His first stop was in Buenos Aires, where he participated in Copa Clora as the top seed. He reached the final comfortably and defeated fellow Spaniard and defending champion Nicolás Almagro in three sets. His third title of the year (and his 14th title overall) came in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco, where he did not drop a set throughout the tournament and demolished Fernando Verdasco in the final. Furthermore, he has won the tournament for three consecutive years.
Let’s face it, his results in the season thus far has been pretty exceptional – it is the fruition of his hard work and his drive to keep improving his game. He undoubtedly one of the hardest workers on tour, and his colleagues acknowledged that “no matter what the score is, he always gives 100%.”.
He stands at a mere 5”9 – “mere” compared to his colleagues – Ferrer may seem unassuming on-court, but he is anything but that. Nicknamed “The Wall”, he is blessed with great footwork that allows him to run down every single ball on court. It is a feat in itself to be able to out-rally and out-run David Ferrer. What he may lack in raw talent is made up, triple-fold, with sheer hard work and determination.
Ferrer has been touted by some critics and tennis writers as one of the most consistent male players on tour never to have reached a Grand Slam final – after all, he has a place in the top 20 for nearly 7 consecutive years (and counting). Ferrer is turning 30 this April, and certainly it will be near impossible for him to achieve the said feat, especially with the calibre of the other top and upcoming players. But personally, I never quite believed in the notion of “never”, as it has been proven to me time and again that nothing is predictable in tennis. He’s in terrific form and he remains determined. A Grand Slam title will be very difficult, but I hope for him to go far in Slams. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants David Ferrer to win a big title, because the little guy with the big heart more than deserves it.
1) Ferrer’s talents in returning are widely regarded in the ATP tour – his return statistics for the year so far is quite impressive – top 10 in all returning categories, and the leader in breakpoint conversion.
2) He is a bookworm. It will not be unusual to see him with his nose buried in a book in the players’ lounge. Reading is instilled into him as a child by his school-teacher mother. Ferrer’s preferred reading material stretches far and wide – from philosophy to mysteries to autobiographies.
3) Ferrer was a smoker. He chain-smoked when he was much younger, and he has since given up the habit – as he should.
5) Ferrer can cook spaghetti Bolognese, cited Marat Safin, Carlos Moya, Nicolás Lapentti and Dmitry Tursunov as his preferred dinner guests, and admitted that he perhaps would like to date Maria Sharapova. All in one short interview (Important note: Ferrer is attached and his girlfriend is a lovely lady called Marta Tornel).
6) On his colleagues: Djokovic and Nadal are funny. Feliciano Lopez is the best-dressed player on-court and off (ironically, Lopez was dressed in a rather horrendous pink kit in the video). And Roger Federer is his greatest opponent on tour.
What the Fans Are Saying …
Some words from Ferrer’s fans from the Twitter universe
Christy loves the way he fights, among other things:
“Here was this guy, smaller than most players even then, flitting around the court and trying his hardest to compete with people who were probably more talented than he was. In those days he was a bit of a spitfire, too, with a temper. Chairs, racquets, clocks, they weren’t safe and I just loved the fire in him. He was emotional and a true warrior.
He will never stop fighting. When others would have given up on the point, he continues running. He works so very hard every day to keep up with the more talented players and is such an inspiration to me.
He is loyal. He’s been with the same coach since he was young, even through frustrating times, yet they’re still a team. David is also loyal towards his country. You can see how much Davis Cup victories mean to him. He’s almost always there (supporting and playing for the Spanish team) and works his ass off.
He’s shy and a bit awkward around crowds/the press, but so very sweet. He doesn’t consider himself much of a star and is very unassuming.”
Caro also admires Ferrer’s fighting spirit:
“He’s the most hardworking player I’ve ever seen. Also, he fights until the very end of every match. He may be down sets, breaks, everything, but never will we see him give up (unless he’s injured or forced to). Furthermore, he’s classy on-court and a very nice guy off-court so it’s really difficult not to like him.” (Caro also adds that whereas Ferrer’s good looks are a bonus, it’s not a reason!)
Ferrer’s battling instincts earned the respect of Arkulari:
“Fight, heart…he’s someone with virtually no weapons making it bight enough to be a top 5 player just by consistency and mental strength. With Ferru, it’s always a battle, doesn’t matter if you beat him 6-0, 6-0.”
The way Atiras fell in love with Ferrer is a bit unusual:
“I sound crazy, but I fell in love with him during US Open 2007 because he wore all these necklaces that made this jingle-jangle sound as he constantly bounced. Once I started to watch him repeatedly, I admired his ability to simply put his head down, get to work and be rewarded for his effort. Ferrer demonstrates you don’t have to be super-talented to be successful. Plus he’s short (makes me feel like I have a role model in the world of athletics). There’s something heartbreaking and existential about watching him struggle to fulfil his potential – the perpetual underdog even against himself. It’s so human in the era of tennis gods. Oh, and those Spanish Elle beach photo shoots? Doesn’t hurt his appeal either.”
(Photo by Reuters Pictures)