The fall of David Ferrer: What went wrong?

In 2013, he had the one of the best years on tour. The period after that has been marred by injuries and declining physical health. In astronomical terms, if David Ferrer is the star, 2013 was the supernova, and now his career seems to be moving towards an inadvertent black hole.

After 2013, David’s career has largely been on the downward slide. Critics had almost written him off after a disastrous 2014 season. Most experts were waiting for him to announce retirement. But David almost sprung up from dead in 2015, when he won 5 titles from five finals. The momentum didn’t sustain in 2016 though; he failed to pick up any titles throughout the season. In 2017, he is currently slated to play in the semis of Estoril Open, which is the first time he has won 2 matches on the trot this year and is also his first semi final of the season.

2014 – After separation from coach Javier Piles

David reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros in 2013. He also finished the year ranked ahead of Federer and Murray at No 3. But perhaps, results were never the reason of the coach and player relationship.

In David’s words,

“Indeed, our personal relationship has been, is, and will continue to be very good. But after 15 years there’s been a lot of wear of tear on both our parts and we both need our space”

While David did confess that there were no personal problems, it was apparent that their professional relationship had run its course by the end of 2013.

After David parted ways with his long time coach Javier Piles at the end of 2013, he brought on Jose Altur to assist him as his coach in a part-time capacity. Rest of the time, David announced, that his physio would be his coach-cum-hitting partner.

Whatever the reason, the split definitely did affect David’s 2014 season negatively.

Here’s a summary of his results at Grand Slams working with part time coach Jose Altur.

  • Lost QF at the Australian Open
  • Lost QF at French Open.
  • Lost 2R at Wimbledon and
  • Lost 3R at US Open.

Overall, he managed to maintain a very positive 54-24 W/L record in the season but won just 1 title.

Ferrer was now a hunter being hunted in his own backyard – the 250 and 500 point events. He lost several matches to players ranked much lower than him.

He realized his partnership with Jose Altur wasn’t working and the duo decided to part ways at the end of US Open 2014.

He ended the year ranked no. 10.

2015 – Ferrer goes 5-0 in the finals

After a rather disappointing season in 2014, Ferrer hired Francisco (Paco) Fogues as his coach for the 2015 season.

In the off season, Fogues worked on Ferrer’s use of his elbows on his serves and overheads. He helped him smooth out his motion.

While Fogues himself wasn’t very highly ranked when he was a playing pro, his inputs certainly worked wonders for David.

He started the season with a bang — winning a title in Doha beating Berdych. He then raced through the month of February racking points by winning titles in Rio and Acapulco covering up for his lost points in the same month in previous year. In the fall Asian swing after the US Open, Ferrer registered his 4th title win of the year at Kuala Lumpur. He then cemented the stamp of success with his 5th title of the year in Vienna.

With this win, he had won all the 5 tournament finals he contested in 2015.

In terms of grand slams,

  • Lost 4R at Australian Open
  • Lost QF at French Open.
  • Did not play Wimbledon due to an elbow injury sustained on Grass in Nottingham Open
  • Skipped all of US Open Series (pre-USO warm up) events
  • Lost 3R at US Open.

Adding Fogues to the team, definitely did wonders for his results and brought back his confidence. However, his lackluster form in Grand Slams continued.

2016 – Further dip in form

In the pre-season for 2016, David made a bold move – he switched his racquet from Prince Exo Tour to Babolat Pure Drive Plus.

This late switch was surprising for many because it could throw him off completely without much time to recover.

Also, his old Exo Tour racquet from Prince had O-port system that maximizes the string movement and was very soft on the arm. His new Babolat racquet was more powerful but much stiffer. Since the feedback from vibrations in this new racquet back to his arm was much more powerful, it was a big change.

But Ferrer wanted to add more power to his game and one of the easiest way to do it is to change the racquet. But it didn’t really pan out as planned.

In the year of 2016, Ferrer went down the spiral.

  • QF loss to Murray at the Australian Open
  • 4R loss to Berdych at the French Open
  • 2R loss to Mahut at Wimbledon
  • 3R loss to Del Potro at US Open

He failed to reach a single QF at any of the Masters 1000 tournaments. As a result, he dropped out of top 10.

The fall of David Ferrer: What went wrong?

For a player who once called himself the worst player in top 100, the majority of his career was guided and directed by only one coach – Javier Piles – ever since David turned pro in 2000.

Piles had unconventional methods of coaching. He mentioned in an interview with ESPN that a coach should be like a “shock-absorber” to the player’s problems. He stressed that the coach should relieve his ward of all the stress.  Some may argue that such kind of codependent relationship is not healthy in any professional equation.

Some may say it is natural for any relationship, be it professional or personal, to develop some cracks after over 12 years of successful partnership.

Jose Altur was more or less a part-time coach for David in 2014. Whenever he was out, the gap was filled by his physio who also doubled up as his hitting partner.

Without a full-time coach (as David played in 2014), not many players can guide themselves as they are alone. In fact, very few players have had positive results after traveling coach-less for major part of the season.

What next?

He changed his coach and his ranking dropped from No. 3 in the world to No. 10. He changed his racquet to add more pop to his game in 2016, it was a disastrous move if you look at the results. He had a 34-22 W/L record in 2016.

So far in 2017, Ferrer just won 3 matches and suffered 7 losses. He is in fact on a 5 match losing streak. And has fallen out of top 30.

With a few more weeks to go before French Open seeds are announced, it could be well be the case the David Ferrer ends up unseeded at a Grand Slam where he has been a finalist.

Ferrer is now 35 years old. Most players retire around that age, not many players can play beyond that age. Only few positive examples come to my mind – Roger Federer, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Leander Paes. Even if they do decide to persist, what’s the guarantee of results?

There is definite possibility for David Ferrer to win more titles. Even at this age, not many players can match the agility he brings on the court. What he lacks with the serve, he covers up with his relentless baseline grinding tactics. He grinds his opponents from the baseline and makes them hit that extra ball.

He can definitely challenge the top 10 again, but he has to be more careful in making any major change.

Now that he’s 35, his body is a lot more prone to wear and tear than when he was young. Even a minor injury could cause a major setback, and could well bring abrupt end to his career.

This week David played in Estoril 250 tournament. Although he lost in the semis, this was his first semi final of a very disappointing 2017 season. He reiterated that he had no plans to retire anytime soon.

This comes as a relieving announcement for his fans who would definitely want a happy good bye; they would want him to bow out on a high.

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