Right now, nothing would thrill me more than to create a glorious post on Federer’s 1000th match win!
Or maybe I’d make a celebratory tribute to 34-year-old Venus Williams’ victorious romp through the ASB Classic draw. Two legends of the game started the season by making statements, and 2015 is looking extremely bright for them.
But technically, that’s not what I promised you guys. I said I’d give you something different. Something you weren’t going to find anywhere else.
And in all the excitement of Roger’s reign, people everywhere have overlooked another encounter – also in a final – with all kinds of insights bubbling below its surface.
Let me take you to Doha…
It was the Qatar Open final – and also distinctly under the radar, what with other big tennis names heating things up Down Under. Given the choice, David Ferrer versus Tomas Berdych – your average Grand Slam quarter final – wasn’t going to be your first pick.
I, myself, was caught up with the big tennis stories, to the extent that I overlooked the immediate (and subdued) aftermath of the Berdych/Ferrer result.
Until I took a glance back. And having glanced back, realised what a spyhole into the season that result might be.
If you’ve read the ‘Biggest Questions – ATP Version’ post, you may remember that these two men were the guys I would have looked into some queries for… had the post not already been absurd in its length.
I briefly mentioned why. I wondered if this would be an ‘ailing’ David Ferrer’s final season, and if Berdych’s ‘determined coaching plan was destined for Slam silverware.’
Maybe they both made a little trip to The Tennis Obsessed.
INSIGHTS AND MUSINGS FROM THE QATAR CLASH
Ferrer won the final, played only yesterday. 6-4, 7-5 was the scoreline, and it’s the sort of result that you’ll have forgotten come the end of February.
Perhaps. Or perhaps not.
Studying the action, there are interesting elements to be gathered from this unmemorable result, and to take into the new(ish) season…
Last year, David Ferrer was on a downhill slope. In 2013, he’d made the Grand Slam final he – self admittedly – had never expected to reach. He was doggedly nipping at the heels of the top guys the way he had done for years – never quite good enough to break into their club, but never so-so enough to slip away from their ranks.
He even made the world’s top three.
But in 2014, it seemed tiredness was finally on the way to claiming him. Ferrer’s game has never been about hitting winners, however strong his short frame is. Instead, he fiercely, stubbornly wears you down, until maybe he’s forced to strike you off. Trouble is, he’s surely been wearing himself down in the process. One solitary title last season lent him a mini ranking slide, both frustrating him, and denying him a place in the World Tour Finals.
That, I thought, could well be it.
Until, at the last moment, David got a slot in the Finals draw. As Raonic withdrew from his last match with injury, the Spanish number two was called in to take on Kei Nishikori.
There wasn’t even half a chance that he could make the semis. Every scenario said it was impossible. And Kei was finishing off his best season to date.
Yet, the David Ferrer who walked onto that court is one I will never forget.
He was fired up. He was determined. It was like he was competing for a Grand Slam, not a handful of cash. (Okay, a bit more than a handful, but the guy’s seen more money than that in his lifetime!)
Fist pumps and yelling, VAMOSing his way around the court…
He had it all.
Well, except the match. But he walked away with a set, however pointless a set it was.
And that’s when I knew that he wasn’t done yet.
Eleven months is a long time, and who knows where David will be at the end of this season. But here is what he tells us from this title:
Tiredness is not a factor – yet.
He’s retained his fighting game style, and Berdych outweighed him in winners on the day of reckoning. It’s the beginning of the year, and he’s fresh off the ‘break’ of the off-season. HOWEVER, Ferrer played over three hours in a triple tie-break semifinal against Karlovic. Then, the very next day, he still came out to defeat Berdych – IN STRAIGHT SETS – with his same never-back-down, wear-you-out trademark game style.
“David,” Berdych reported after the match, “is never tired.”
It’s easy to forget that Ferrer is younger than Roger Federer. And look what that champion achieved the other day! Add to that the fact that Tommy Haas was a top twenty player at age 36, and the Spaniard is proving that he doesn’t have to fall victim to burn out yet. Yes, he’s withdrawn from Auckland this week. But there’s a Slam around the corner! The younger guys play this tactic, too.
His determination is the same 24/7.
I wouldn’t even have considered Ferrer to take a Week One title. Even after examining the Doha draw, he wouldn’t have been your stand out winner. Especially after last season.
But David showed us that he wasn’t interested in just getting some decent match play in before Australia. No – he was in it to win it, and anything else failed the mission.
In a match consisting of three tiebreaks, anything could happen to you: from fatigue setting in, to an injury pulling you out. But Ferrer went the distance, then went back out for more.
Whether it’s a Tour Finals match that won’t get you anywhere, or a warm-up tournament to start the season, this guy wants no less than every bit of it.
He’s sticking around, because tennis brings him joy.
He knows he almost certainly (the closest I can get to Definitely without actually saying Definitely) will never win a Grand Slam. He’s already won 22 tour level titles. So why bother with the stress of life on the pro-tour any more, when he’s achieved all that seems achievable?
Because, apparently, the tour has become addictive for David Ferrer. He’s in it for the thrill of victory. For the agony of defeat. And for the ever-new sensation of delight that sweeps through his being to to be displayed on his face as he captures the Qatar Open crown.
David loves his tennis. That is all.
WHAT IT ALL ADDS UP TO INDICATE:
David is on tour and fighting for the long haul – whether he’s winning, or losing.
So Tomas Berdych, if you haven’t heard, is on a mission.
It seems that the Czech is not going to rest until he has Andy Murray’s ex-coach Ivan Lendl on his own coaching team. And, with a stroke of genius, he’s already brought Ivan’s good pal Daniel Vallverdu on board.
To tempt his countryman into the deal.
Never having been a Berdych fan myself, I have to say I’m really impressed with his mindset. Berdych has quietly (I say quietly, there were probably a few agonised groans behind closed doors) witnessed the sudden and unexpected Grand Slam victories of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic. But while Stan’s Aussie Open would simply have come as a shock (Tomas himself fell to Stan in the semis, and therefore cannot complain), Cilic’s US Open triumph – in which the Croat came through an empty draw, past a woeful Roger and a worn-out Kei – can have been nothing but a cruel, stinging blow.
2014 must have been painful. However, rather than wail at the unfairness of it all, Tomas has held himself together, and formulated a clever little plan. It’s admirable, really. And it’s already sparking with little glimpses of potential success.
But what does the Qatar Open final have to say about it?
Ivan could take Tomas all the way.
With Dani Vallverdu fresh on his side, Tomas made his first final of the year. There were already evident improvements in his game (more on that shortly). BUT, he fell one step short. Visible errors – including obvious frustration, and lack of control – cost the Czech at key moments.
One of the things that Ivan was most noted for, during his time with Andy, was working on the Scot’s on court behaviour. He taught him composure. Andy was not allowed to blow up, or to bellow his fury. He was to keep calm and carry on. And, credit Lendl, it worked well for him. Amelie obviously wasn’t keeping up with his career at this point, but there we go. It’s their loss.
Couple this training method with the confidence and superiority that having Ivan at his side will certainly give him, and things are looking good for Tomas Berdych.
Increasingly so, given Ivan’s comments on how much he relied on Dani’s help during his time in the Murray camp.
Clever plot you’ve got there, Tomas.
Tomas desperately needs a game behind that serve.
One of several guys with a bomb of a service, Berdych has seen his take him to such heights as the Wimbledon final.
But never further.
Why? Quite simply, because there’s not much else behind it.
Everyone has their off days. And for Tomas, the day of the Qatar Open final wasn’t a good one for his not-so-secret weapon. Six aces in a match that nearly went to three sets is meagre for the Czech. Winning 30% of his second serve points in the first set is just one choice statistic. We won’t mention that he was broken at a vital point in the second set (except that I just did.)
Thankfully, however, there is a however! As he took on Ferrer, right away it was evident that Dani’s input was making a difference. And giving him something to back up Plan A.
This was not the same guy who got annihilated at the Tour Finals in November. As an example, often it is the tall guys who struggle with their movement, and Tomas is no exception. But his side-to-side court coverage was already faster and more fluid.
Rushing to the net, which has always been an issue, it seems will be examined at a later date. His lack of control once he’s there is… well, quite comforting, to this amateur tennis player. And the reaction from his girlfriend when he fell victim to this at a crucial moment was priceless!
However, what was more notable was that he was hitting gob-smacking winners – groundstroke winners! – like nobody’s business. Off his forehand side, especially, he used his tall frame to unleash downward power on the ball. Painting the lines, he persevered. The three set points he had were all on his opponent’s serve. That’s what he wants to see more often!
Unforced errors probably cost him the victory. Most of the match highlights came from Tomas, but the majority of the lowlights were his, too. Those three set points he had? He lost at least two as he didn’t take advantage of a Ferrer second serve. And for another example, Berdych is not one to change the direction of a cross-court rally. This has proven costly many a time, as either he will falter, or his opponent will strike first. He needs more confidence, because he’s proven he is capable of making those shots – and did so a few times in this final.
That’s where Ivan will come in so handily…
WHAT IT ALL ADDS UP TO INDICATE:
If Tomas gets Lendl on his side, this could well be a big year for him. And if he doesn’t, then the Vallverdu match-up has shown immense promise anyway.
If he can just keep a hold of this mindset… then the tennis world has reason to be wary.
** ** ** ** ** **
So, there you go!
There were some nice little details to be picked up from a rather underwhelming encounter. And now we can watch the respective seasons of Ferrer and Berdych unfurl with more interest than we may have done previously.
As always, thanks for reading!
And don’t forget, you can leave a comment to give your opinions on all of this. I’m sure there are people out there who are more expert than me when it comes to Berdych and Ferrer!
Remember to follow The Tennis Obsessed on twitter @tennisobsessed_.
And keep an eye on the site this week! I have a feeling that Roger and Venus won’t avoid getting themselves a little mention somewhere…