David Ferrer – The French Open Nearly Man?

When the Grand Slam draws are released, people immediately try to work out the possibilities with most looking towards the back end of the tournaments. There are no guarantees in the draw with shocks happening throughout every round, but one man, outside the “Big Four”, who you can almost guarantee to still be in the tournament come the second week these days would be Spain’s David Ferrer.  He has reached the second week at Grand Slams now 15 consecutive times but this period has only seen the Spaniard reach one final; The 2013 French Open and only 4 semi-final appearances. Outside of the four slams, Ferrer has reached 43 ATP Finals, winning 21 with a 48.8% success rate showing that he is capable of not just reaching but winning finals. His career statistics suggest that Clay is his most favoured surface with over 58% of his finals being on the surface.

If he is to break his Grand Slam duck then it is likely to come at Roland Garros, the only major tournament played on Clay. His win percentage there is the highest he has compared to the other three slams with Ferrer winning just under 75% of his matches. As mentioned above, Ferrer reached his first ever Grand Slam final last year, losing in straight sets to the “King Of Clay” Rafael Nadal in Paris.

Entering his 12th French Open, I’ve decided to review Ferrer’s French Open career and try to dis
cover why many think he’s the French Open Nearly Man.

His first campaign in the French Open main draw was back in 2003 after failing to qualify in 2002, losing in the 2nd Qualifying round. In 2003, he recorded his first grand slam victory beating Jurgen Melzer in straight sets, falling in the second round to 22nd seed Wayne Ferreira, despite taking the first set. The following year, Ferrer reached the 2nd round yet again beating Oliver Rochus in R1 then losing to home favourite Julian Benneteau in R2.

His first initial breakthrough at Grand Slam level was in 2005, ranked 20th, where he reached the Quarter-Final losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. This wasn’t to be their last meeting in Paris. As well as this being the first Grand Slam QF he reached, it was particularly special as he defeated current champion Gaston Gaudio in the 4th round, winning in a thrilling 5 set battle in the 4th round.

With the pressure of having to defend a large chunk of points for the first time, Ferrer’s 2006 campaign came to an end in the 3rd Round to fellow Spaniard Rubén Ramírez Hidalgo who previously hadn’t even won a match in the main draw. Momentum took him past Ferrer. The following year was a mirror image of 2006 where Ferrer lost to another Spaniard in the 3rd round again. His victor was mercurial Fernando Verdasco, who despite losing the first set, won the next 3 and defeated ended Ferrer’s challenge.

In 2008 Ferrer was coming into Roland Garros with real form at Grand Slam level after reaching the 2007 US Open semi-final (His first grand slam semi-final) and his first ever Australian Open Quarter-Final in the first slam of the 2008 calendar. After seeing off his respective opponents in the first two rounds, his draw began to get difficult and he had to win in two 5 set matches in both the 3rd and 4th rounds, despite trailing 2-1 in sets twice. In the Quarter-Final he was the favourite to overcome Frenchman Gael Monfils who was playing the best tennis of his life. After winning his previous matches in 5 set thrillers, Ferrer ran out of gas and Monfils took full advantage, delighting the French Crowd and reaching the semi-finals.

After a slip down the rankings, Ferrer found himself seeded 14th and faced a possible early meeting with Nadal in the fourth round. However, in the 3rd round he met Robin Soderling who was attempting to reach the second week for the first time. In a stunning display, the 23rd ranked Swede overcame the loss of the first set and beat the small Spaniard. He then shocked the tennis world by becoming the first, and only player, to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros before later reaching the final and losing to Roger Federer. Ranked slightly higher than the year before at 9th, Ferrer lost to Jurgen Melzer in the 3rd round who was on track to record his greatest finish at a grand slam, reaching the semi-final before losing to Nadal. Ferrer had bad luck again, in playing a player with real momentum.

In 2011, Ferrer faced Gael Monfils in the 4th round, 3 years after their memorable QF meeting. This encounter was just as memorable with Monfils being the victor yet again, winning 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6.

By the time the 2012 Roland Garros came round it had been 4 years since the name David Ferrer was seen in the second week’s schedule, something that he wanted to change. He did change it by reaching the semi-final with the highlight being the win over Andy Murray in 4 sets in the QF. Ferrer had real momentum going into the semi-final but again found himself up against Nadal. Rafa clinically dispatched Ferrer with the loss of just 5 games, destroying any hope of a first grand slam final. He didn’t have to wait long for that after reaching the 2013 final after reaching it without conceding a set during any match, including a win over home favourite Jo Wilfried-Tsonga in the semi-final. His opponent in the final was inevitably Nadal, who rampaged to his 8th Roland Garros crown.

As for this year, Ferrer saw off Dutch Igor Sijsling in the first round and Italian Simone Bolelli in the second round to set up a third round clash with either Andreas Seppi or Juan Monaco. If he wins that then his opponent in the 4th round would be with Ivo Karlovic or Kevin Anderson with the possibility of another meeting with Nadal in the Quarter-Finals.

After reviewing his Roland Garros career, it is clear that often the draw does not pan out kindly for him. Many critics would suggest that to be the best, you need to beat the best with the example of Juan Martin Del-Potro being used at the 2008 US Open. However, at his 3 best runs at the French Open, Ferrer has always had the bad luck of facing Rafael Nadal who had only lost one match in 9 years of competing in Paris. If Nadal had not been there then there is certainly a case to make for Ferrer winning his first slam.

In my opinion, Ferrer will go down as the consistent one, who never gives up and is always a challenge to every opponent. He’ll also always be remembered for being arguably the most consistent player outside of the “Big Four” and perhaps one of the best to never win a slam. One things for sure – He wont stop trying.

Feel free to post any comments below. All are welcome.

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