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The Waterbug 11/13/2007 - 12:05 PM

2007_11_12_ferrer_blog After looking over the net at David Ferrer for a few hours, one must want to scream, "Stay still!" The wiry Spaniard bounces so much that you want to force feed him some tranquilizers. Perhaps he drinks caffeinated water during changeovers. Or Red Bull. Down a break, up two breaks, down a set, down two sets and two breaks, it doesn't matter. Ferrer is fidgeting. Two times this year he's outrun the best mover on the tour, Rafael Nadal.

At the U.S. Open, Ferrer humbled an injured Nadal, literally knocking him over. That match was the first time I saw Nadal lose on fitness, still his greatest strength. It happened again Tuesday night in Shanghai. Ferrer lost the first set, but kept at it. By the end of the match, Nadal looked exhausted and discouraged. Nadal's trademark late burst--no one accelerates late in a match like Nadal (see Rome, 2006 and 2005)--could merely hold back defeat for a game (final score: 4-6, 6-4, 6-3).

Ferrer used a few interesting tactics in this match. It's risky to hit drop shots against Nadal, even when he camps out well behind the baseline. Ferrer hit several perfect ones, and his quickness saved him from a few not-so-perfect ones. He also played to Nadal's stronger forehand side. Not all the time, but often and wisely. Nadal's spin doesn't do much damage to Ferrer's two-hander, so Ferrer happily accepted those exchanges. After a few, he took Nadal up the line, often for winners (an important one came on the first point after Ferrer had broken for a 3-1 lead in the third set). He also forced Nadal wider and wider with inside-out forehands.

A few interesting stats:

Forehand winners: 19 for Ferrer, 7 for Nadal (remember, the tournaments define winners as balls not touched by the opponent).

Second serve points won: 11/30 (37%) for Nadal, 19/36 (53%) for Ferrer. Nadal's serve continues to kill him.

Match time: two hours, 40 minutes.

I'm thrilled that Ferrer has had such a fine year. He's not going to win over serve-and-volley, Federer-loving, where-have-the-good-old-days-gone fanatics, but he's more versatile than many believe (he showed some fine touch Tuesday night). When I look at Ferrer, I see everything that Guillermo Coria might have been (and was for a little while). Small and quick as electricity, but also powerful and dangerous when given a chance to take a full swing. Ferrer hit one backhand up the line last night that sent him hurtling forward into the court; I half expected him to fall over. The man can really let the racquet fly when he wants to.

Few would have picked Ferrer to be the first man in this field to win two matches. There will be a lot on the line for Nadal against Novak Djokovic on Thursday (and nothing for Djokovic). Looks like we could very well see two Spaniards in the semifinals.

It's now Wednesday morning in China. Enjoy the tape-delayed tennis until you too make it to Wednesday.


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Posted by Pete 11/13/2007 at 12:38 PM

Thanks, 'Hawk! From this borderline rave, I can tell I need to pay a little closer attention to Ferrer's game in the future.

Posted by 11/13/2007 at 12:40 PM


Posted by 11/13/2007 at 12:40 PM

oou not first

Posted by Syd 11/13/2007 at 12:42 PM

Great post! Thanks. But, er, not sure what you mean... 'serve/volley, Federer/loving'...etc. Since Roger is not of that persuasion...

Still, enjoyed the read.

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/13/2007 at 12:57 PM


while it's true that Federer, as an all-courter and possibly the best ever to play, is certainly much more than a vulgar serve-and-volleyer, I do believe Tom has a point. His fans tend to also intensely dislike the prototype of the (usually Spanish) defensive player, with an average serve, little propensity to come up to the net, and the legs to reach virtually every winner, but rarely return one back. So I found it a very perceptive comment on Tom's part.

Posted by linex 11/13/2007 at 01:22 PM

On the comparison between Coria and Ferrer, I think Coria had more touch, variety and technique than Ferrer, and was even more quicker. Perhaps Ferrer´s advantage is that he is stronger phyisically and mentally than Coria.

Ferrer´s stronger mind may be due to the fact that he thinks he has technical limitations and therefore never stops fighting. In this article publlished in the Deuce magazine at the ATP site Ferrer´s coach says that in the past Ferrer never truely believed in his tennis skills, that even when he was beating Nalbandian and Coria in a tournament, he was feeling technically inferior.

Posted by CL 11/13/2007 at 01:49 PM

Hey nice post - but don't you know that Ferrer has already been classified as a hightailed honey badger... NOT an insect?? Please, try and keep up.

Posted by Jenn 11/13/2007 at 01:57 PM

Interesting comparison to Coria. I would not have thought of that, but it makes sense. Mentally, Ferrer just seems incredibly sound to me. He doesn't seem to press bad shots. He plays the big points well (I think of his epic 4th rounder at the USO in which he was match-point down to Nalbandian in the 5th set). Most people get discouraged against Nadal when they go down a set (particularly in a best of 2). I think most others, including most of the top 10, would have gone away today, as Nadal was playing pretty well for stretches. But Ferrer saved 5 break points in the 2nd. Those points were the huge difference in the match. Nadal should have won it, but let it slip away.

Posted by CL 11/13/2007 at 02:14 PM

Jenn - I think you are right about Ferrer being mentally tough, but not unshakeable. After he beat Rafa at the USO dind't he lose in the very next match? Or maybe the one after? Of course part of that was fatigue as well... but that is the price you pay for the kind of game he plays. Esp. on the hard courts. I think that if Nadal is healthy AND can force himself to remain very agressive against Ferroo he can handle him pretty ...well,I don't want to say 'easily' 'cause Snoo will feed me to a honey badger, but, I just think Rafa will win more than he loses against little Daveed. (And on clay - all Rafa til somebody proves WAY otherwise.)

Posted by anna 11/13/2007 at 02:33 PM

I like your writing style,very refreshing.But Ferrer is not an insect;more like a cute furry Badger with those darting lively eyes and that bouncy eagerness.Quite adorable and for Nadal probably very annoying.Yeah really;'would you just stay still'.Wonder what he was like in school;probably had to tie him to a desk.

Posted by Ruth 11/13/2007 at 02:38 PM

I don't want to talk about Coria lest I start crying.

If you don't mind, Syd...I think that Tom's three hyphenated adjectives were meant to refer to three similar-but-also-different groups of "fanatics" who might not be thrilled by the Ferrer style.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 11/13/2007 at 03:14 PM

actually I've always thought that Ferrer deserved more to be in Shanghai than Gasquet for instance. His run (literally ) of the last few months is first rate. He has beaten Roddick, Davydenko, Nalbandian and Karlovic (my benchmark of late in assessing top players!).

He ran over a lazy Gasquet in Tokyo so I'm not stressing too much here. Either way, if Gasquet starts to show what he is capable of under pressure or if Ferrer just explodes him again: it's a great time for the Spaniard, particularly after some of the (a bit) condescending posts one had to read, about him being a dull (pedestrian, ha) not top-10-worthy player.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 11/13/2007 at 03:18 PM

sorry for above, the english syntax is not my forte obviously.

One last thing I wanted to say about Ferrer's tennis is its resemblance to Rafa's. It's incredible and I still don't understand what happened today. He is older but it seems that the "pupil" has gotten into the master's head.

Posted by Juan José 11/13/2007 at 04:50 PM

After watching Dorothy's disaster of a performance, I was ready to go back to bed. Then, ESPN Latinamerica decided to show almost the entire third set of Gonzo-Fed, and that made me very happy.

I was quite giddy about Ferrer-Nadal, but I could only withstand until 1-4 in the first set. Losing his serve three straight times, spraying balls all over the court, it seemed Ferrooo was destined for a 2 and 3 shellacking by Nadal, even though the latter wasn't hitting the ball particularly deep or with a purpose. Still, keeping the ball in play seemed to be the only thing necessary for Nadal to win this match. Of course, I was quite wrong about all of this.

I do agree with Tom in that many people would find him unappealing, but I can't imagine anyone claiming his spot in Shanghai is not deserved. The guy kills himself out there week in and week out. Everyone on tour will agree that if anything, this success was long overdue for someone who gives so much of him on the court.

As for his game, his display against Dorothy was quite comprehensive. Just flawless in how he attacked when he needed to, defended maniacally to quash any possible rally, and protect his serve impeccably. True, sometimes the offencive part of his game disappears and he just becomes a backboard, but when everything clicks, he's a joy to watch.

Posted by Jake Barnes 11/13/2007 at 06:17 PM

David Ferrer is Lleyton Hewitt without the obnoxiousness.

Posted by great_gams 11/13/2007 at 07:58 PM

Jake: like the comparison to Hewitt. he seems to want the ball as much as LH did in his peak years. think he's got more offense than Hewitt did, though. (while, yes, being quite a bit less offensive.) and unlike Hewitt, his game seems to work on hardcourts as well as clay. wonder how he'll fare on grass in coming years....

Posted by FoT 11/13/2007 at 08:12 PM

I think Ferrer has a little more power off the ground than Hewitt. Just my take...

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/13/2007 at 09:20 PM

Ferrer can actually play on grass. In Wimbledon 2006 he made the 4th round; he was seeded 17th this year and was expected to do better, but Paul Henri-Mathieu forced him into defensive play and then killed him at the net in the second round. Or third round, at the very latest.

I love the guy, but even if he breaches the top 5, his time there will be short. However, I'd love to see him keep the inspiration alive long enough to return Roddick's serves right back to him in semifinals, and then make everyone think that "Ferrer wins Master's Cup" against Federer was a mistype.

Unlikely, though.

Posted by jk 11/13/2007 at 09:53 PM

"Two times this year [Ferrer]'s outrun the best mover on the tour, Rafael Nadal."

This reminded me that the last one to beat Ferrer was Nalbandian in the Bercy QF. And Nalbandian did it by running Ferrer to the point of exhaustion in three sets lasting 2:49 the day after his two set win over Federer. Ferrer had advanced over Berdych in the prior round 6-4 6-2, and had exited both Basel and Madrid early. Anyone doubting Nalbandian's fitness level should consider that Bercy QF in context. :D

(Incidentally I still don't understand why Nalbandian couldn't find a different way to beat Ferrer that day other than running him into the ground. Reporters virtually ignored the match. I suppose it is something about the way their games match up that's not readily apparent to me. I do know they've had a couple of these marathon matches. I'd be grateful if anyone can enlighten me on this.)

Meantime, I'm happy Ferrer is the first player with two wins and headed for the SF. He's one of my faves.

Posted by Juan José 11/13/2007 at 10:35 PM

jk: Nalbo just doesn't match up well with Ferrer. He tries angles, and the ball comes back to him. He tries to force the issue with speed, and the ball keeps coming back to him. He serves well against other people, but against Ferrer, he has to be on his heels every service game. Also, and not to be underestimated, they are very good friends (Nalbo called him his best friend on tour), which just spices things up nicely.

That Madrid QF was quite the match. Nalbo didn't play all that well, but that was a direct consequence of Ferrer's tenacious play. Same as in the U.S Open, where Nalbo had a match point fall to his forehand, proceeding to dump it in the net. He executes that backhand, and he's in Shanghai.

The way against Ferrer, and it takes quite a bit to do it these days, is to open him up with angled shots to his backhand side, and end the point on the other side, attacking the net if necessary. While Nalbo can do the first part, he can't really end the point with the speed that his forehand provides. So Ferrer gets to everything, and the point keeps on going forever. It's a battle of attrition all the way through.

Another important aspect is to put pressure on Ferrer's serve, especially the second one. You just cannot let him have easy service games. Nalbo won that QF by putting a lot of pressure on Ferrer's serve, by returning down the line from the deuce court, and cross-court from the ad court. Hitting deep, penetrating returns gets you most likely a short ball, and there is much more open space to end the point without forcing the issue too much.

Problem is, he does the same thing to you.

Against Nadal today he was a nervous wreck for most of the first set, but then settled down and employed his very sound gameplan: move Nadal from side to side, forcing a short ball that he could punish with his inside-out forehand into Nadal's forehand corner. And never letting Nadal escape with a second serve. He also did something interesting by not feeding angled shots to Nadal's backhand: he just played to it, forcing Nadal to come up with a balance-shifting shot spots closer to the middle of the court than outside of it, where he can really blast flat winners cross-court.

By the end of the match, he was going at Nadal's forehand corner without mercy. And won the point almost every single time. It should be said, Nadal seemed tired by the middle of the second set, and downright exhausted by the end of the match. Kudos to him for fighting right until the end, but there wasn't any gas left on his tank to overcome two breaks and a focused Ferrer.

Posted by jb 11/13/2007 at 11:06 PM

tom - i'm loving the first hand reports, glad your writing for us! I do take exception to one thang - for the record, this is one Federer-loving, serve n' volleying chickita who is loving watching Ferrer's progress this year. He was one of those 'clay courters' who hit my attention a couple years ago as 'dangerous' on hard courts, and I've always enjoyed watching him play.

I have to laugh about the fidgets though - as watching him bounce around is just exhausting, particularly at the wee early hours of the am this week, when i can barely focus at all!

But keep posting, please? :)

Posted by Aroy 11/14/2007 at 12:03 AM

Is federer-davydenko match start at about 9.00 ET?

Posted by Eddy 11/14/2007 at 12:37 AM

Loving the posts Tom. I don't know what your role is for, but you, Steve, and Bodo rock. I must say you guys' reports spark my interest.
"I think Ferrer has a little more power off the ground than Hewitt. Just my take..."
And hence you have just discovered why Ferrer is now more highly ranked than Hewitt (apart from the injuries). What I love about Hewitt is he was a counterpuncher extremist with uncommonlly good volleys, warrior on the court, speedy gonzalez (the old one), who played smart tennis and earned every winner he hit with good setup--also, the way he stiffs his arms for his backhand. :-). I didn't like him for a while, but he's mellowed a bit, it seems, since he became a father.

Posted by Dee 11/14/2007 at 04:31 AM

Mi casa es su casa!

After the exchange of smiles at the net, all warm thoughts of being at home with each other were dispelled on the sprint back to their respective corners for the warm-up.

These two bulls wasted no time circling each other, both going in for the kill that resulted to 5 break points between them. They gored each other with zipping forehands, heavy topspins, deceptive dropshots ... fantastic gets from all over the court! What the fans paid to see, the fans got last night, and more. The breathtaking rallies were such that there was a decrescendo of OWWwww - this when the crowd in Qi Zhong stadium thought that the point ended on the 'teenth stroke, only to rise to a crescendo of aahhHHHS when the rally continued until Rafa got the better of David on the 29th stroke. That was the first long rally, followed by a longer 31 (?) - stroke rally later in the match.

The younger toro fought back but the older toro held ground to win the match.

It would be just fitting, for me, if both make it to the semi-finals.

But being a Nadal fan ...
Vamos Rafa una!
Vamos David segunda!

(mi casa es su casa: make yourself at home or feel at home)

Posted by SwissMaestro 11/14/2007 at 03:37 PM

Please do not catalogue Federer's game under the one-dimensional label style... He adjusts to beat his rivals, evolves in the time span of one match!! and can evolve back again as he does not play Nadal in the same way he plays Karlovic to say something, simply unheard of...

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