ATP World Tour Stars Salute Ferrer
On the night of Monday, 27 August 2018, US Open tennis fans were left with a feeling of nostalgia and the turning of a page as David Ferrer completed the final chapter of a storied career at Flushing Meadows.
Up a break in the second set, Ferrer was forced to retire in his opening round match against compatriot and friend Rafael Nadal 3-6, 4-3 due to a calf injury. For a player considered the tour’s ironman – before Monday, the Spaniard had not retired in 208 Grand Slam matches -- it was a bittersweet ending and an ironic way for Ferrer to end his playing days at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
If he holds firm to his word, Ferrer’s short farewell tour will include appearances in 2019 at ATP World Tour tournaments in Auckland, Buenos Aires, Acapulco, Barcelona and a final stop at the Mutua Madrid Open. He’ll be 37 years old when he enters the final two events in Spain.
Ferrer’s legacy extends well beyond the US Open, though he’s managed to gain a high level of success at Flushing Meadows. He was a semi-finalist in 2007 (l. to Djokovic) and 2012 (l. to Djokovic), and reached at least the fourth round on three other separate occasions. The right-hander from Javea reached a career-high No. 3 ATP Ranking on 8 July 2013 and lifted 27 ATP World Tour titles, including an ATP Masters 1000 crown in Paris in 2012. But Ferrer leaves behind a more indelible mark than the accolades and trophies: His workhorse ethic and gladiatorial spirit earned him a place in the hearts of fans in the stands and helped earn the respect of rivals on the court.
His fiercest competition throughout the years is also the first to pay tribute to tennis’ version of a modern-day gladiator. Nadal, the US Open defending champion and World No. 1, praised Ferrer’s longevity on the ATP World Tour and credited his constant growth as keys to Ferrer’s success.
“David has been on a staple on the ATP World Tour so many years now. He’s played at the highest level for most of those years and he was constantly finding ways to improve his game,” Nadal said. “I value him as a player and a friend.”
Nadal feels Ferrer’s legacy will remain intact, despite the fact Ferrer never won a Grand Slam throughout his distinguished career. Ferrer was on the verge of victory at the French Open in 2013, when he defeated the likes of Feliciano Lopez, Kevin Anderson, Tommy Robredo and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before succumbing to Nadal in the final.
“David’s career is one of merit. His record speaks for itself (726-371),” Nadal said. “Unfortunately, he’s come up short in matches he should have won. Lesser players have won crowns at majors … I’d rather retire with what David has earned in his career than some with Grand Slam titles. It’s hard to say it, but he could have used a bit of luck at times. He was also competing during a time when it was practically just three or four players winning all there was to win in the sport.”
Another of Ferrer’s contemporaries, Juan Martin del Potro, shares Nadal’s sentiments. Del Potro’s feelings are bittersweet regarding Ferrer: The Argentine will miss him as a competitor but he’s also proud of what Ferrer is leaving behind in terms of accomplishments.
“I have a great relationship with David and far from being sad about today, I’d rather look at how he exemplified the career of a model player and a model person,” Del Potro said.
Del Potro, who lifted the US Open title in 2009 and holds a 7-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Ferrer, is almost certain the Spaniard would have won at least one, if not several titles at Roland Garros, had it not been for Nadal.
"I think David never captured Roland Garros because of Rafa [Nadal], but surely he would have won several titles in Paris had Rafa not stood in the way,” Del Potro said. “David was a player that nobody wanted to face.”
Tommy Robredo feels there’s a lesson to take away from Ferrer’s approach on the court, and the way he carries himself off it. Robredo has much in common with Ferrer: Both are 36 years old, both are from Spain and the pair has competed on the ATP World Tour during the same timeframe.
"I think we have to thank David because of what he has done for the sport of tennis in Spain,” Robredo said. That part about his contribution to Spanish tennis should be highlighted in capital letters. Few have provided the kind of joy that David, who is a friend of mine, has been able to dispense. I wish him the best when saying goodbye; he’s a great guy who people can and should learn from.”
Although a year younger, Fernando Verdasco is of the same generation as Ferrer and has plied his trade on the tour for roughly the same amount of time. What strikes Verdasco most about Ferrer is his reliability and durability.
"David's career has been amazing, with all the titles he has earned and the ATP Ranking he achieved,” Verdasco said. “Both his consistency and his overall career in general have been incredible, the best in the business. He’s part of the history and the lure of Spanish tennis.”
So what would Ferrer say about himself, when looking back at his illustrious career?
“It’s hard talking about myself in the third person,” Ferrer said with a laugh. “I’m proud to say I’ve always tried to improve every year. Even more than that, I’m proud I listened to everyone who took the time to give input and provide feedback on my game and to those who tried to make life better for me off the court and at home as well.
“I’ve given every drop of sweat I have to this sport. I’ve done like all humans do, I’ve made good decisions, some not so good, but I’ve learned from all of them. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, some I’m very proud to have by my side, some within my family and some that extend beyond that. From all of that, I’ve been able to form my own opinions and choose my own path.”
After the loss to Nadal on Monday, Ferrer plans to lay low for the rest of the season before fully planning out the short farewell tour. But for the most part, Ferrer feels he’s accomplished what he set out to do from the start of his career, and he’s at peace with however it ultimately ends.
"In all, I would be very proud of David Ferrer, as a player and a person has done, because every day he goes to bed calm and satisfied.”