Wednesday, September 5, 2007

He's no Federer, but "Ferrer" is (kinda) close


Anyone who says tennis is not an athletic sport, did not stay up past their bedtime Tuesday night to watch the fourth round U.S. Open match between No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

The two battled back and forth, neither giving an inch. I watched the first set at work, drove an hour home, fixed myself a late chicken-and-corn hot plate, and the third set was just beginning. It would be another two hours before the four-set match ended at 2 a.m. EST.

In all, the match took three and a half hours. And, remember, the commercial breaks in tennis are harmlessly short (not always to the players' liking). Nadal and Ferrer were on the court for a good three hours.

Finally, with both players' shirts and shorts soaked through with sweat, Ferrer finished off the upset — 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 — when Nadal's lob sailed long. There would be no Federer-Nadal Part III in Flushing Meadows. Rather, the always-on-his-tiptoes Ferrer advanced to the quarterfinals, where he'll face Juan Ignacio Chela, who was a five-set winner Tuesday.

Somehow, I surmise, both players will summon up enough energy to put on a show when they meet Thursday. Which ain't a bad feat, considering the energy used Tuesday/early Wednesday.

With the remaining fans beginning to yawn and the announcers — I'm sure — dreading the beginning of Wednesday's long day of coverage less than 10 hours away, Ferrer unseated Nadal as one of the ATP Tour's most energetic, peripatetic players.

Ferrer showed absolutely no signs of fatiguing as the new day dawned and his opponent — the usually invincible Nadal — called for a trainer to massage a finger and indicated with body language that his hamstrings weren't right.

Ferrer bounced around while awaiting each serve from Nadal, then outhustled his fellow countryman from side to side, reaching balls that normally we only expect the quick-as-lightning Nadal to get to.

At the completion of the marathon, there was nothing to say except that Ferrer had been the better, quicker player and deserved to be moving on. And if he plays like he did Tuesday night in the quarterfinals and semifinals, could it be?

Federer vs. Ferrer in the final Sunday afternoon?

How cool would that be?

I'm sure Ferrer would muster up plenty of energy for that matchup.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's in impeccable shape.

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