Saturday, January 10, 2015

Is David Ferrer Due to Take a Step Back in 2015?

David Ferrer has been one of the most unlikely stars of the past decade.  He wasn't a particularly well known junior, and didn't burst onto the scene as a pro.  However, he managed to carve out an exceptional career, despite being undersized and possessing no true weapon besides remarkable fitness.  Whether he can maintain his status amongst the elite in 2015 will be one of tennis' biggest questions in the upcoming season. 

Ferrer finally showed signs of slipping towards the end of 2014, suffering a handful of surprising losses.  He plays a physically demanding style, and as he enters his mid-thirties at some point his body will start slowing down.  It isn't unprecedented for successful grinders to fall suddenly and drastically in the rankings as they get older, i.e. Davydenko.  However, Ferrer still had an extremely productive 2014, making two grand slam quarters and the finals of Cincinnati.  Replicating his success won't be easy, but it doesn't look like he'll fall too far given the lack of threats beneath him in the rankings.

With the Big Four still around and the next generation of Nishikori, Raonic and Dimitrov maturing, spots inside the top 10 won't be easy to come by.  Ferrer never fared well against the Big Four (though who did) and it now appears like he'll soon be overmatched by this next crop, if he isn't already.  They're no longer afraid of him, and should only get better in the next few years.

The key for Ferrer will be not getting passed by the players currently ranked in the 11-30 range.  Fortunately for Ferrer, there aren't a whole lot of serious threats amongst this group.  It's not exactly brimming with young talent, consisting of the likes of Roberto Bautista-Agut, Feliciano Lopez, Tommy Robredo, John Isner, Fabio Fognini, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau, Leonardo Mayer, and a host of others unlikely make a move toward the top ten.  It's not hard to imagine Ferrer holding off this group for another couple of years.  Ferrer's days well within the top ten may be over, but a severe drop-off in the near future doesn't seem likely.

It may finally be time for Ferrer to consider playing a reduced schedule, but this doesn't seem likely since he already entered both Qatar (winning the title) and Auckland before the Australian Open.  He likely suffered toward the end of 2014 because of all the matches he'd played, but this seems like a risk Ferrer is willing to take.  Resting his body with a focus on peaking toward the slams has never been Ferrer's style, and it looks like he's going to put himself through another demanding season.  Expect Ferrer to finish just outside of the top ten, and to leave fans impressed once again by another extremely solid season.  

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