Could David Ferrer at last be stepping out of the shadows of his history-making countryman, Rafael Nadal? While the top-ranked Spaniard’s Wimbledon campaign ended with a huge shock two days earlier, Ferrer extended his Wimbledon run into the fourth round with a 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-3 win over Andy Roddick, further underlining the fact that Nadal is not the only Spanish man whose natural ability on clay can also translate to grass.
“Today was a tough, tough match. [A] very close match. I played very consistent, very solid,” said Ferrer in typically understated fashion. “And when I won the second set, and the third and the fourth, I play more quiet, receiving better than the first and second set. And I can win.”
With both players claiming lead-in grass court events – Ferrer in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Roddick at Eastbourne – in the weeks prior to Wimbledon, this was a third round meeting that had promised a close contest. Ferrer has a narrow 6-4 match winning record over the American but having never previously met on grass, that statistic hardly provided a reliable guide.
Roddick, who at world No.25 is ranked 20 places lower than the top-five Spaniard, dominated the first set, breaking Ferrer in the opening game and then again in the third. With his big serve firing and some deft touch at the net reminding thrilled Centre Court spectators of the grass-court game that had taken him to three finals, Roddick claimed the set in 22 minutes.
Ferrer, however, is not known as one of the toughest fighters in tennis for nothing. The second set offered a fresh start, as he demonstrated in breaking Roddick’s serve in the second game. Roddick would break back three games later but the Spaniard was starting to impose his own style; the set went to a tie-break, in which each man held a pair of set points. Ferrer capitalised on his second, and thereafter took control.
Where Roddick had earlier dominated from the net, he was now increasingly confined to the baseline as Ferrer showcased the best of his groundstrokes, his stunning forehand proving especially damaging. While the Spaniard dropped only two points on his own serve in his first three service games of the third set, Roddick was desperately retrieving break points, finally surrendering serve in the seventh game and allowing Ferrer to take the set 6-4.
By the fourth set, the American was prepared to try anything. Despite producing 15 aces, Ferrer, known for his spectacularly ability to return, could push on the most important points; in the seventh game Roddick took the extraordinary step of challenging his own serve after a backhand down-the-line winner gave Ferrer another critical break. There was an air of inevitability as Hawk-Eye ruled against him; the Spaniard closed it out with another break of serve two games later.
With Ferrer experiencing the best year of his career with four titles and a semi-final run at the French Open, a philosophical Roddick could see the positives in the loss. “You know, he’s playing great this year, I mean, he semi'd the French and then came in off of a win, so it was going to be tough,” he said.
“I thought I played well. I had one really good look at a forehand on a set point in the second set; just clipped the tape. You know, that was a big, big turning point there.”
As Roddick addressed questions about potential retirement in his post match press conference, Ferrer – who at age 30 is a year older than the American – looked ahead to a fourth-round meeting with Juan Martin del Potro, which is a chance to extend an eight-match winning streak and progress to the quarter-finals, which would mark his best ever Wimbledon showing.
“It’s going to be going to be so difficult. To win him I will have to play very consistent. Is very important my first percentage with my serve. I will have to play very, very good,” the Spaniard said of the match with the 2009 US Open titlist.
Still, having already taking out one big-serving former Grand Slam champion in Roddick, Ferrer would have to fancy his chances of outclassing another.