In sport, just as in life, some people are destined to reach the peaks of glory, but some others never really get there - despite having a tremendous work ethic. Spain's David Ferrer, who is retiring at the end of the Madrid Open this week, is as good an example as any of the latter category of people.
Ferrer's career story is a complicated puzzle. For him, crossing the final hurdle always seemed to be a daunting task, as he was never really able to transcend his tremendous potential on the grandest stages of the game. He often faltered when it mattered the most, making people forget all the good work he did at other times.
His friend and compatriot Rafael Nadal once said that many lesser players were able to win the Grand Slams but not Ferrer himself, which sums up the tragedy of Ferrer's career. It is hard to know from the outside what really stopped him from becoming the great player that everyone anticipated him to become, for he had all the ingredients to be a multiple Slam champion.
Nonetheless, Ferrer, who is looking forward to his swansong in the Spanish capital, has given us a bag full of memories throughout his career to cherish and take inspiration from. As Ferrer plays the last few matches of his career at the Madrid Open, here is a recap of his best moments:.
2000-2006: A slow starter in the early years
Ferrer turned pro in 2000 at the age of 18. He was slow to start out of the blocks as he managed to win just two titles in this period, both on clay - at Bucharest in 2002 and Stuttgart in 2006.
2007-2010: Coming of age years
Ferrer finally began to create a solid impression on the courts with his exuberant style of play from 2007 onwards. An inherently good claycourter, Ferrer was able to transcend his form and breathtaking array of groundstrokes on to the hardcourts as well, as he made his first ever Grand Slam semifinal appearance in New York at the US Open.
En route his journey to the semifinals, he got the better of the then World No. 2 Nadal in their Round of 16 clash. His exploits at the 2007 US Open helped him to break into the top 10 in the rankings for the first time ever in his career
Ferrer won three titles in 2007 - at Auckland, Bastaad and Tokyo - and followed them with two more titles each in 2008 and 2010. He well and truly established himself as a top player in this period.
2011-2015: The glory years
An appearance in the Roland Garros 2013 final, a career-high ranking of No. 3 in July 2013, an astounding seven title wins in 2012 and as many as nine final appearances in 2013 - Ferrer pretty much had the run of his life in the span of these five years.
Such was Ferrer’s consistency in this time period that he dropped out of the top 10 only in May 2016, for the first time since October 2010.
Winning five titles wins in 2015 at the age of 33 following a minor blip in 2014 was like an icing on the cake. These were the years that pretty much defined Ferrer in each and every way possible.
2016-2019: The road towards the end
The quarterfinal appearance at the 2016 Australian Open when he lost to Andy Murray was the last time Ferrer made it to the last eight of a Grand Slam. His form slowly but surely started to desert him with each passing tournament in this phase.
With an ageing and injury-prone body accompanied by a physical game that took its toll, Ferrer started succumbing to early losses against lesser known players, signaling the start of his downhill journey.
It was sad to witness a player of Ferrer’s calibre taper off at the end in the way he did in his last three to four years. But at the same time, it was inevitable.
As a tennis fan, we will always have a soft corner in our hearts for Ferrer. He was an inspirational figure in the sport and an acutely unfortunate example of a person coexisting in the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
At the Madrid Open, Ferrer opens his campaign against his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut in their first round clash. It will be interesting to see how far the retiring Spaniard can go in his last ever tournament. But whatever happens, the fans would hope to witness vintage Ferrer for one last time before he bids his final goodbye to the sport.
For Ferrer, it has always been more about the journey than the results. The game would have been poorer without its biggest unsung hero of this generation; the Spaniard leaves behind a legacy that will dwell in our hearts for years to come.
Goodbye, David Ferrer!
David Ferrer’s career story in numbers
Career Titles: 27
ATP Masters 1000 Titles: 1
Career W/L Record: 733-376
Grand Slams W/L Record: 145-63