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The Iron Man


Ferrer© Getty ImagesDavid Ferrer is often overshadowed, but his peers regard him as one of the fiercest competitors on the ATP World Tour.

No one works harder in men’s tennis than David Ferrer. As Simon Cambers of The Tennis Space writes, the Spaniard never gives up and never stops running.
He’s been called The Little Beast, the Duracell Bunny, even the Road Runner. Waking up in the morning and remembering that you have to play David Ferrer must be every player’s worst nightmare. If you are going to win, you are going to have to do it the hard way and the chances are, you are going to hurt.

Ferrer has been a fixture in the Top 10 for several years now and continues to improve. A semi-finalist at Roland Garros, the US Open and Australian Open and a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, he has won 16 career singles titles and pocketed a cool $15 million in prize money alone.
And yet in an era when his compatriot Rafael Nadal has changed the face of Spanish tennis by winning 11 Grand Slam titles, the efforts of Ferrer have been overshadowed by those around him. He gets very little attention compared to the top four – Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Nadal – but his peers know exactly what to expect every time they see him across the net.

“He has many ways of hurting guys on the court”

“I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” Murray said earlier this year. “People think he’s just a workhorse, almost. He does work incredibly hard but he has many ways of hurting guys on the court. He’s been in the top five, six players in the world for the last three, four years. He’s very consistent, has a great game, he’s improved his serve a lot over the last few years and he’s physically very strong as well. Over five-set matches he’s very hard to break down.”

The nickname “Little Beast” is meant as a compliment, testament to his incredible speed around the court, his endurance and ability to run down almost everything that is thrown at him. Like all players who grow up on clay, he has good feel and he knows when to move forward but it is his court coverage and tenacity that single him out.

“Yes, you can write little beast if you want to, but my name is David Ferrer,” the Spaniard says. “I’m not a big fan of ‘warrior’ or ‘gladiator’. I think they’re a bit simplistic and not really my style. However, I do like ‘Ferru,’ it’s a mix of my name and the word for ‘iron’ in Spanish. It means I’m resistant.”

Go to a tournament in the days leading up to an event where Ferrer is in the draw and you may well spot him running in the streets and hills nearby with his long-term coach, Javier Piles. A former player, Piles spotted the potential in Ferrer as a youngster and has become something of a second father to him. The two have one of the strongest player-coach relationships on the Tour.

FerrerFerrer claims he was a lazy trainer as a junior but he has certainly grown out of it. At the age of 30, he seems to be still improving and is a phenomenal athlete, making up for his lack of physical presence with the heart of a lion.

With age comes wisdom, too. Though he can do around 36 minutes for 10 kilometres, he used to run himself into the ground in the off-season, only to tend to fade as the year wore on. Now, he does “just” 90kms a day on a mountain bike in the off-season, as well as a little bit of football (he is a Barcelona fan). On the court, he sometimes ends his training sessions by playing for 5-10 minutes with the racquet in his left hand, believing it helps his body to retain its natural balance instead of becoming too lopsided.

What is doubly impressive about Ferrer is that he shows no signs of frustration at the lack of attention he receives and only feelings of admiration and respect for Nadal. “I’m not a jealous person,” he said recently. “I’m lucky enough to be ranked (fifth) in the world, I really can’t complain. I’m one of the lucky ones in the tennis world. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am and I never wanted to use my success to get special treatment. I come from a very humble family and I’m still like that, I don’t let the star thing go to my head. I’m very down-to-earth.”

What he does is play tennis incredibly well and he never, ever gives up. There’s not much more anyone can ask. 

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