On the eve of Abu Dhabi’s premier tennis tournament TOAD speaks to superstar David Ferrer.
Tennis is one of the fastest growing sports in Abu Dhabi, and for good reason. The facilities across the city are superb, the weather is perfect for outdoor sport and the world’s biggest names come here regularly to entertain the crowds that flock to Zayed Sports City for the Mubadala World Tennis Championships.
Six of the world’s top ten players will be playing at the tournament later this month. Included in that impressive lineup is David Ferrer, the Spanish player who has defied the norm by playing his best tennis at, supposedly, the end of his career.
Ferrer has played at his best since turning 30, and appears to only be getting stronger with age, bucking the trend of the majority of international tennis stars, including the legendary Roger Federer, who traditionally fall away from the peak of the sport after the age of 29. A first Masters title in 2012, a first Grand Slam final in 2013 and eight consecutive quarter final or better appearances at majors in 2012 and 2013 have cemented Ferrer’s place as one of the top tennis players in the world.
Indeed 2013 has been such a good year for Ferrer that he managed to crack into the top three of the world rankings in July 2013, leapfrogging perhaps the greatest player of all time in Federer, and Britain’s Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, a tremendous achievement considering the fact that the current cohort of stars have been billed as possibly the greatest generation in the history of the sport.
Ferrer was a key contributor on the most successful Davis Cup team since the John McEnroe-inspired USA side of the early ’80s, winning three titles with Spain in a four-year span between 2008-2011. But it is in individual tournaments that Ferrer is looking to make his mark in 2014, by going a step further than his Grand Slam Final appearance in 2013 and taking a first major crown. That journey starts at the Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi this month which is being seen by many of the players as a perfect opportunity to tune up for the first Grand Slam of the new year.
So as the calendar year draws to a close TOAD speaks to David about the last 12 months through his eyes, and just what he’s expecting from 2014.
How has your season gone so far?
It has been a long year for me, I’ve played a lot of matches. The good thing about that though is that it means I also have won a lot of them, which I’m obviously pleased about. Overall it has been a very positive year.
You reached your first Grand Slam Final this year, was that the highlight of your career?
To reach the Final at Roland Garros (The French Open 2013) this year was something very special that I will never forget. Not many people get the chance to play in a Grand Slam final, so to say that I am one of those players is a great achievement and honour.
Do you believe you can still win a major before you retire?
It is very hard to win a Grand Slam, there are very good players, and each time it seems to get even harder! But of course I will keep trying to win one.
Who is your favourite player to play against?
Haha, well to be honest I prefer not to play against anyone in the Top Ten [in the world rankings]! They are very hard, physical matches that always take a lot out of you, regardless if you win them or not.
Which is your favourite surface to play on?
I feel comfortable playing on clay courts (such as Roland Garros), but really my style of tennis is best suited to hard courts and indoor courts.
What’s your opinion of the tennis here in the UAE?
People in the UAE are very excited about tennis, and that is always a very good thing. I also think the good thing about this event is that it will help bring a major tournament here in the future as people will only become more interested in the sport.
Do you use tournaments like MWTC to prepare for bigger challenges?
Yes, these events do help me get myself ready for upcoming tournaments and the season ahead. At events like MWTC you play matches against players who are at the highest level of the sport, which is why it is perfect for training and preparation for the biggest tournaments, such as the Australian Open in particular.
What do you think 2014 has in store for you?
I only hope it will be as good as 2013. I’ve had a lot of success this year so to do the same again would be fantastic. I’ll keep training as hard and putting everything into every match, so hopefully I can continue to get good results in 2014.
What is the best moment in your career to date?
Victory for my country in the Davis Cup [Ferrer was a key member of the Spain team that won three Davis Cups in 2008, 2009 and 2011] has certainly provided some of the happiest days of my career. Also my first Masters 1000 title at the Paris Masters in 2012 was a special moment and definitely a career highlight.
David Ferrer will be playing at the Mubadala Tennis World Championships at Zayed Sports City on December 26-28. For more information visit www.mubadalawtc.com (02 493 8888).