Friday, April 30, 2010
The Consummate Warrior
At 28, the energetic Ferrer hasn't lost a step
It's clay court season, and once again this week in Rome, Spanish tennis players are pretty much the only ones left in the locker room as the weekend nears. Everybody else has been taught a hard lesson: Don't mess with Spain on red clay. They've been whipped like over-the-hill horses, spanked like tiny children, and sent crying for their mommies.
It's a testament to the depth and capacity of Spanish tennis that brilliant players like David Ferrer go largely unheralded.
But not today, because, as an intrepid tennis writer, I am going to do my best to praise Spain's 4th highest ranked player.
Ferru. I have to admit that I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the 5'9" 160 lb Valencian. It's just one of those things that we tennis fans feel. You may feel it for someone else, but I've no doubt that there are others that feel for Ferru the way I do. How could they not? Maybe it's the way he likes to chew on his towel during changeovers. Maybe it's because he reminds me of a pit bull (I've got a major soft spot for that breed as well).
Whatever it is, I know I'm not the only one who admires David Ferrer. Any serious tennis fan in Spain knows that he has poured a considerable amount of blood, sweat, and tears into the clay in the name of Spain. Who could forget last December's come-from-behind five set victory over Radek Stepanek? The way that Ferrer, so out of kilter for the first two sets, willed himself back into that match was truly inspiring.
But it's not only about the winning and losing with Ferrer. And that is what endears the 28-year-old red-blooded Ferrer to me most of all. Of course he aims to win, and he's desperate to do so, but as he plays it seems to be about the battling. About the spirit of competition and the one-on-one nature of the sport.
For Ferrer, it's about playing tennis courageously rather than timidly. It's about lusting for battle and not being afraid to take your chances when they appear. There are more gifted players than Ferrer on the ATP tour, to be sure. There are more consistent ones as well. But I don't know that there is anyone as intense, as maniacally driven, or as physically energetic.
Ferrer is such a spirited competitor, bouncing up and down between points, his sweat-laden bandanna doing all it can to control his long unkempt hair, that his energy is contagious. Just watching him on television is enough to make you want to hit balls for two hours after a six mile run. It's even enough to make you believe that the aforementioned workout is possible!
Sometimes Ferrer wins, as his eight career titles and career-high ranking of four can attest, and sometimes he loses. But never, ever, does he take a match off. He battles just as hard down a set and two breaks as he does in a third set tiebreak.
Expect more of the same as he prepares to do battle in the Rome semi-final across from his compatriot Fernando Verdasco. Win or lose, it'll all be left on the red clay for us to see.
Win or lose, Spain should be proud of Ferrer, and so should the ATP.
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 11:29 AM