David Ferrer came to India with a point to prove.
So did the entire Spanish team, really. Just look at their roster. They have 11 players in the ATP top 100. One-fifth of the top fifty is Spanish. Yes, one-fifth. They could have sent a third string squad, and half of it would still be in the top fifty. But they want to play in the big league again. They want back in the World Group. So they sent Rafael Nadal. They sent Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez. And they sent Ferrer.
Spain came here with a point to prove. But so did David Ferrer.
His name is not pronounced the way you would think (the Spanish pronunciation is Daveeth). His career has not gone the way you would think either. He has a mammoth 685 wins on the ATP tour. That is 10 more than his teammates, Marc and Feliciano Lopez combined. Only Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer have more wins than him, among players still on court.
But he has not won a Grand Slam.
Without attempting to be iconoclastic, or trying to take the sheen off the Grand Slams, we have to concede they are insanely over-glorified. History, tradition, and longevity are the kind of pedestals upon which the majors are elevated.
What is history but a fable agreed upon, asked Napoleon. What is tradition but something the rich and powerful at a certain time did? What is one tournament win against another? And yet outside the tennis fraternity, to the plebeian sports lover, to the passing sports fan, they are all that matter. Because they are all that they know.
They know nothing of the World Tour Finals, the World Tour Masters or Indian Wells. Ferrer has won one of these. He also has 26 ATP titles. And three Davis Cups.
But he has not won a Grand Slam.
The Spanish team has 15 Grand Slams between them. 14 to Nadal. One to Lopez and Lopez. So at the draw, all the questions were directed at those three. Even at the quiet Marc Lopez, who looked genuinely taken aback to be asked a question.
After his rubber on Friday, Ferrer was asked if the focus being off him helped him to focus on his game. His answer was like his double handed backhand. Short swing. Lots of power. Contrived placement.
That’s Ferrer. He had just eviscerated India’s Saketh Myneni on court. Few words, all action. Eight breaks of serve in a 6-1 6-2 6-1 win in 88 minutes. Despite the tenacity Feliciano Lopez showed, despite Ramkumar Ramanathan’s crowd-pleasing skills, and despite Myneni’s silken slices, Ferrer had been by far the best player on the court. Focus on him or off, his game was there anyway.
Shoulders like a Transformer. Gait like a lumberjack. If Ferrer had been a cricketer, he would be one of the old school ones, who rely on their feet more than their hands. His five foot nine frame means a greater foot frequency over short distances, and he used it to bustle around the court with celerity. No whipping forehand like Nadal. No flowing one handed backhand like Feliciano. And yet, the best hands on display as he packed a punch that belied both his frame and his age.
Ferrer is 34. And he is also world number 13. How does a player maintain drive, work ethic, and skill level, for more than 15 years? It starts with honesty. “I don't have a Grand Slam because I don't deserve it,” he said in the lead up to this tie. Honesty can be brutal. And effective. Like his backhand. Short swing. Lots of power. Contrived placement.
2016 has been a tough year for him. After five titles in 2015, he has none this year. Third round loss in the US Open. First round loss in Cincinnati. Second round losses in both the Olympics and Wimbledon. So David Ferrer came to India with a point to prove.
On court on Friday, he proved it.