ABU DHABI // Rafael Nadal has defeated David Ferrer in 21 of their 26 official meetings over the years, won two Mubadala World Tennis Championship and has the type of hall-of-fame pedigree that would cause many foes to cringe.
That certainly is not the case at the moment with the feisty Ferrer, who easily won his opening-round match at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex on Thursday night and will face the reigning world No 1 in the semi-finals on Friday.
“I think I have a chance with Rafael on a hard court,” said Ferrer, the world No 3.
The Spaniard, 31, probably the most brutally honest player in tennis, would not make that assessment if it did not contain an element of truth. While the record between the compatriots is lopsided, Ferrer has a 4-4 record against Nadal on hard-court surfaces, such as that at the Zayed Sports City venue.
Ferrer ousted the world No 8 Stanislas Wawrinka in 70 minutes in a 7-5, 6-1 victory that was more emphatic than the score line.
After Wawrinka broke Ferrer’s serve to take a 5-3 lead in the first set, Ferrer won nine games in succession to take command.
“Stan, I think maybe he lost his focus a little bit,” Ferrer said.
Not much chance of that happening to Ferrer, especially against Nadal, 27. They played six times in 2013, with Nadal winning five. Ferrer beat Nadal in Paris last season but lost to him in London, Rome, Madrid, Acapulco and, most notably, at the finals of the French Open. The latter was Ferrer’s first appearance in a grand slam final.
Ferrer laughed when it was noted how often the two have played of late. Today’s match “will be another one”, he said.
In a way, Ferrer is a different player from the man who played in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago – and that is not a reference to the 70-minute pummelling he suffered at the hands of Novak Djokovic in his first Mubadala match last year.
In an off-season surprise, Ferrer this month parted ways with his coach of 15 years, Javier Piles, odd timing in that 2013 marked his highest world ranking and his first grand slam final.
Wawrinka had trouble with his serve, putting only 48 per cent of his first serves in play. He said he was impressed by Ferrer, an overachiever who few like to face as he fights to the end of every point.
“That is why he is so good for so many years, and why he has that ranking,” Wawrinka said. “It’s always a good fight.”