by Rajagopalan Rohinee
In 2016, when I had gone to cover the Davis Cup World Group Play-off between India and Spain in the Indian capital New Delhi, I got a chance to briefly speak one-on-one with David Ferrer. It was quite a fortuitous occurrence if I could say so, brought about by virtue of him leaving the press room all alone after a joint press conference addressed by the Spanish team. For me, it was a tick against a long-compiled bucket list of players with whom I wanted to professionally interact.
And while I cannot recollect the questions – though the article is still archived – which were largely dated, the memory of mustering the courage to walk up to Ferrer and ask him if he would talk to me still lingers on. As does the fact that barring true-blue followers of the game who had come to attend the matches, not many knew about Ferrer, or were keen to more about the player.
From the global standpoint, one could never be so crass as to attribute the same lack of knowledge about the Spaniard. However, in a way, those three days in India – despite him winning both his singles rubbers to help Spain claim a 5-0 whitewash over the hosts – encapsulated the minutiae of how a swathe of Ferrer’s career went under the radar. As they emphasised the constant underestimation of his on-court capabilities. This underestimation, then, still holds true. Even as lately as his match against Alexander Zverev in his last hard-court tournament, at the 2019 Miami Open.
The win over Alexander Zverev in Miami, ending the German’s run of four successive wins against him, too, summarised the other side of the coin that has been the 36-year-old’s career. Of thriving when least expected, and putting on avowing performance such that not only his game would speak for him but the focus would also remain centred on it.
This dichotomy, then, defines Ferrer’s near-20-year-old career. To be a player who is grounded in his strengths as though raising self-awareness about his susceptibilities and yet someone who never stopped striving to get better. Like reaching his first Major final after having played 42 Majors without making it to the second Sunday.
Many would rue that this opportunity came in a little too late as it has often been said about him missing out on a lot because of the competitiveness of the era of which he was a part. Such introspection would be doing the man a disservice in solely using numbers and statistics as a convenient measure of accomplishment.
It rarely happens in sports that less comes to denote more. But this is quite true if one were to describe Ferrer’s career. It may not have the prescribed standards of title hauls but it was no less enriching and satisfying the way it has been, arching into a peak of its own making, mindless and unheeding of the doubts and scepticisms, especially those that came about camouflaged as plaudits.
Beyond this, on a personal note, being inspired by Ferrer and his career is also the completion of an unlikely circle. One that began after a misunderstanding involving his name and that of Federer’s, back when I had just started following the game over a decade ago.