Perched at a career-high No 3 in the world as the Mubadala World Tennis Championship gets underway, the Spanish workhorse insists the ranking belies his actual station in the game, writes Steve Elling.
David Ferrer continues to thrive with tennis talent around him
His honesty, at times, remains as surprising as it is refreshing.
In an era when many sports figures delude themselves, and excuses, deflection and psychological ploys are designed to mask vulnerability, David Ferrer embraces the notion that an elite tier exists in men’s tennis.
He is largely a party crasher.
Perched at a career-high No 3 in the world as the Mubadala World Tennis Championship gets underway on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City, the Spanish workhorse insists the ranking belies his actual station in the game.
Despite what the figures say, he maintains the top players remain Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
Though he has 20 career victories, Ferrer continues to describe himself as a guy trying to bring down lions with pea-shooters.
After completing his most impressive season in some regards – he reached his first grand slam final, at the French Open, then cracked the world top four for the first time – he all but shrugs when examining his place in the game’s pantheon. A career still in ascent at age 31? Do not be too quick to judge.
“It’s more difficult to be top four, top three, top 10 now,” said Ferrer, who faces the world No 8 Stanislas Wawrinka in the tournament opener at 5pm on Thursday. “I will be 32 years old. So, top 10 is a good result.”
Unblinking candour makes it easy to pull for Ferrer, who grinds as hard as any player in the game. But given that the aforementioned Big Four have won an incomprehensible 34 of the past 35 slam titles, perhaps honesty is the best policy.
Those are jarring numbers, painting a not-so-fine biographical line between defeatist and realist.
Like many players seeking a slam title, Ferrer has been the victim of bad occupational timing, since the talent at the top someday might be viewed, en masse, as the best of any period in the men’s game. Rather than hang his head, he believes playing in this era has been anything but hurtful.
“I think I have improved my game because I have played with them,” he said. “If I didn’t play with them, I would not have improved. I’m a better player because of them.”
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