David Ferrer plays Novak Djokovic tougher than anyone outside of the top four, which will make their Thursday night Australian Open semifinal a must-see affair.
Djokovic is well aware that the never-say-die Spaniard can run with him, and would happily engage in a six-hour marathon if that was what it took to pull off a victory.
Ferrer is coming off a remarkable five-set win over Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals when he came from two sets down to defeat his compatriot, while Djokovic made the final four after a thorough four-set defeat of Czech Tomas Berdych, which he was able to pull off despite having to play more than five hours in a dramatic win over Stanislas Wawrinka two days earlier.
While Djokovic had his way with Ferrer in the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year and the US Open on outdoor hard courts, Ferrer did take the Serbian down at the 2010 ATP finals and 2011 Madrid.
Clearly, three-time Australian Open champion has been a better match player as he owns a 9-5 record against him overall, but that does not mean that Ferrer, in his third Grand Slam semifinal, hasn’t developed the weaponry to challenge the Serbian.
At the age of 30 and coming off his best season, Ferrer is a more confident and secure player.
“I need to be aggressive on the court, that’s for sure,” Djokovic said. "I need to step in and try to be in control of the match, otherwise he makes his own rhythm, he makes his own pace on the court. That’s where he’s very dangerous.
“He’s a great competitor. He’s somebody that has a lot of respect from all the players because he’s playing so many tournaments and works very, very hard. You can see because he’s basically, in his 30s, one of the fittest players around. [He] is playing the best tennis of his life in the last 15 months. It’s the semis of a Grand Slam, so I expect a tough match.”
Ferrer knows that it is going to be awfully tough, too. Not only is Djokovic the world No 1, but since the start of 2011 he has been the tour’s most feared and successful outdoor hard court player, winning the last two Australian Opens, the 2011 US Open, six ATP Masters Series tournaments and two other events on cement.
He never seems to tire, slides around likes he’s playing on dirt and turns defense to offense in a blink of an eye.
“Novak, he’s the No. 1 of the world,” Ferrer said. “He’s the favorite to win the Australian Open.
“He’s a special player. He has every shots. His physical is unbelievable. He’s the best, I think. Anyway, I will have to play better than [against Almagro] to win.”
The odds are firmly stacked against Ferrer, who has never reached a Grand Slam final. Djokovic hasn’t lost to a player outside of the so-called ‘big four’ (himself, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal), since Tomas Berdych took him out of Wimbledon in 2010.
But Wawrinka came very close to sending him out of Melbourne, so the top seed is well aware that if he isn’t careful, Ferrer could pull off the feat.
“There has been a certain domination in the last few years from the top four,” Djokovic said.
“[But] we can never underestimate the quality of the rest of the players.”