There's one man you don't want to get into a slugging match with on the tennis court, and his name is David Ferrer. The Spaniard has made a career out of utilising every last ounce of quality and energy in his game, but the world No.4 struggled for large parts of his second-round match. His opponent, Roberto Bautista Agut, a Wimbledon debutant in the main draw, didn't shirk the challenge of going toe-to-toe with Ferrer, and on another day, could have came away with a greater prize than a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 defeat against his name.
With the Wimbledon weather gods playing havoc with the schedule, the clash of the two Spaniards started 53 minutes later than planned, but even then, it didn't really get going. The pair stylishly played out the opening point from the baseline but the chair umpire deemed the grass surface still too slippery and hauled both players off to allow the court a chance to dry out. Eventually, though, we did get under way.
Ferrer, who will move up one place to a career-high ranking of No.3 whatever happens at Wimbledon, predictably made it tough for his compatriot early on, breaking the 25-year-old's serve in the second game following a string of punishing forehand drives from the baseline.
Although he has yet to move into the world's top 50, Bautista Agut showed plenty of resilience to restore the break back a game later and the opener went with serve until the eighth game. Ferrer rocketed a forehand winner down the line, which was virtually impossible to stop, to secure him the crucial advantage and he quickly served out the set, 6-3.
The movement of both players was particularly eye-catching. Bautista Agut sensed that he could get back in the match. He began to hit the ball with greater venom and Ferrer struggled to get any rhythm on his returns and lost several long exchanges from the back of the court.
With Ferrer playing the majority of his tennis way behind the baseline, Bautista Agut employed the clever use of the drop shot. In the eighth game of the second set, again, he was rewarded for his endeavours with two break points. After squandering the first, Ferrer gifted him the second with a double fault. A succession of forehand errors from Ferrer handed the world No.60 the set 6-3 to level.
There was nothing to split the Spaniards throughout, apart from one factor - experience. However, A heavy assault on the Bastista Agut serve in the second game of the third set secured him a vital early break, but it didn't follow the logic that most would have expected.
The Spaniards exchanged service breaks over the next two games before Ferrer sprinted into a 5-2 lead. But his opponent fought back, held serve, broke Ferrer, and held again to take the third set into a tie-break.
Ferrer, at this point was wobbling, but a succession of errors off the backhand wing from his opponent helped him to win the breaker 7-4, which was far more comfortable than it should have been.
The fourth set told a similar story and as it neared its conclusion at 5-5, it was a tale of contrasting forehands. Three forehand unforced errors from Bautista Agut and one clinical inside-out forehand from Ferrer granted him the break. It really knocked the stuffing out of Bautista Aut, and although the crowd were keen for a fifth set, Ferrer wrapped up the match.
Next, Ferrer plays Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov on Saturday, a player he leads 5-1 in their career head-to head. The French Open finalist said he is happy with where his grass-court game at the moment, but he admits he is gradually improving: "I am okay. Of course, I had a little pain in my ankle. But today I fell off just one time. The court is normal. Is good, because was raining sometimes on the match. Yeah, I improving my game in grass court.’’
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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