David Ferrer: From Locked in a Closet to a Lock on a Grand Slam?

Carolina FinleyContributor IIIOctober 3, 2012

David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal celebrate winning the Davis Cup
David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal celebrate winning the Davis CupJasper Juinen/Getty Images

David Ferrer. The other Spanish player. Is 2013 his best chance to capture a grand slam?

Long overshadowed by Rafael Nadal at home and abroad, Ferrer is a strong player in his own right. The 30-year-old world No. 5 is playing some of the best tennis of his life right now, winning 5 of his 16 career titles in the past year.

Ferrer is also the player with the most wins so far in 2012, edging out Roger Federer by one victory. If his winning streak continues, will he have a chance to break into the upper echelon of tennis?

At 5’9” he is the shortest player in the top ten, but he is long on perseverance, habitually fighting for every point, running along the baseline and chasing down every ball.

A tireless competitor, his overall game and outstanding stamina make him a player opponents don’t relish seeing on their side of the draw.  

Could he put it all together and win a slam in 2013?

Previously, 2007 and 2008 were Ferrer’s most successful seasons. Roger Federer complimented him by describing him as the best returner in the game. That talent helped him reach a career high of No. 4 in the rankings.

But this year, by appearing in every grand slam quarter-final and the semi-final of both the French Open and the US Open, he has put in his most consistent performance to date.

To reach the US Open semi-final, Ferrer overcame Janko Tipsarevic in a four and a half hour, five set match, which was arguably one of the best of the tournament.

In the semi-final Ferrer took a 5-2 lead in the first set against Novak Djokovic before the match was delayed due to weather. That gave Djokovic a chance to regroup overnight and break Ferrer’s momentum, battling back the next day to secure a place in the final.

At the French Open, Ferrer beat Andy Murray but lost in his semi-final to Rafael Nadal, who has been an unstoppable force on clay.

David Ferrer did not always have the relentless fighting attitude he displays on court. When he was a teenager, his coach, Javier Piles, would lock him in a tennis cupboard with only bread and water when Ferrer didn’t want to practice. Ferrer obviously does not hold a grudge, as Piles remains his coach to this day.

Known as one of the friendliest players on tour, Ferrer is also one of the best team players around. Spain is about to compete in its second consecutive Davis Cup final, thanks to Ferrer securing the final point needed by winning his match against John Isner. Ferrer has a tremendous Davis Cup singles record of 21-4, helping Spain dominate the contest in recent years.

Although domineering on the court, Ferrer is shy off of it. He is always quick to give credit to his opponents and deflect attention away from himself. Apart from sports, he lists his interests as cooking and reading. He even recommends books on his website, recently a positive-thinking book, The Art of Life is not Bitter by Rafael Santandreu.

Perhaps we should all read it. Ferrer certainly seems to employ positive thinking, and perhaps he is a rare person in sports or life—someone who is happy where he is.

But wouldn’t it be great if he could continue his strong play and cap off his career with a major win?

Earlier this week, Ferrer retired from his first-round match at the China Open due to a virus. He expects to be back before his next tournament.

Throughout most of his career he has managed to keep himself healthy and at a high-fitness level. If he can maintain that, he might find himself at an advantage come spring.

Ferrer is a good hard court player, but excels on clay, with 9 of his 16 titles won on that surface. With Nadal having time off due to injury, every player’s chances are better. If Nadal has not recovered his previous form by the 2013 French Open, this could be Ferrer's best chance. With a winning record on clay against both Murray and Djokovic, Ferrer will be a serious contender.

After the tenacity Ferrer has shown playing in 40 straight grand slams and reaching the last four quarter-finals, no one in tennis would begrudge him a top prize.

And life certainly would not be bitter.