David Ferrer turns on giant-killing tennis to deny Berdych in Doha
David Ferrer beats Tomas Berdych 6-4 7-5 to win the Qatar Open in Doha
A calm, confident and strong Tomas Berdych, with new coach Dani Vallverdu in his box, had increasingly carved out ‘favourite’ status with each day that passed in the Qatar Open this week.
Not only had he seen the highest seed in his half, No2 Rafael Nadal, go out in the first round and No1 Novak Djokovic depart from the other half of the draw in the quarters, the No3-seeded Czech then beat former champion Richard Gasquet to reach the semis.
By the time Berdych powered to the final, his score-sheet was still almost blemish-free. He had dropped only 16 games in four matches and had not been broken once. Indeed he had faced only four break points, saving all of them.
The No4 seed David Ferrer, in contrast, had taken a tougher route, coming back from a set down in his first match, and then surviving an onslaught from Ivo Karlovic in the semis to win in three tie-breaks after more than two and a half hours.
Ferrer, in fact, had struggled to find his best form since winning his last title almost a year ago, in Buenos Aires, though he did reach the final in Cincinnati in the summer. Despite an enviable consistency—and he completed his set of Masters quarter-finals in Toronto—he found himself at his lowest ranking in more than four years by the season’s end, No10.
Meanwhile Berdych won two titles from five finals in 2014 to consolidate a No7 ranking before Doha. He had, too, won his last match against Ferrer, a four-set victory at the Australian Open a year ago.
But the big-hearted 32-year-old Ferrer is little affected by statistics and expectations when he takes to court. His head goes down, and he bustles and chivvies himself to the maximum effort whoever the opponent and whatever the score.
He was helped in his cause, too, by Berdych showing unexpected nerves in the opening games. Ferrer broke twice for an immediate lead before the big Czech began to find his range and confidence to pull one break back for 2-4. Berdych very nearly broke again to level in the 10th game, too, but Ferrer resisted and served it out, 6-4.
Ferrer broke in the opening game of the second set, too, but this time Berdych broke back straight away to love, helped not a little by two double faults from the Spaniard. They stayed on level terms through the set, apparently heading for a tie-break.
Berdych impressed time and again with a retooled forehand that has something of Rafael Nadal’s famous top-spin lasso, and it beat the reach even of the spritely Ferrer. The Czech also showed the willingness to attack the net that had characterised his aggressive tennis all week. Yet Ferrer stuck with him, retrieving like a terrier, kicking in his wide serve, unleashing angled groundies in both directions. He fought off three set points at 4-5 to hold, and swiftly turned the tables on the Berdych serve to break courtesy of a double fault.
It was the work of a moment—and of a very driven man—to serve out the match to love, and Ferrer finally raised his head to the heavens in victory, 7-5.
The quietly-spoken Spaniard raced to his box to embrace new coach Francisco Fogues and his girlfriend, before admitting: “I’m very happy! It’s a special winning this tournament.”
Though the smile said it all.
This is Ferrer’s 22nd title, and he passed the 600 match-win milestone at the end of last year, only the fourth active player to do so. Yet with his passion for playing and winning seemingly undimmed, it looks certain there will be more before the year is out.