David Ferrer will be looking for his fourth consecutive title in Acapulco when he takes on long time nemesis, Rafael Nadal, who is looking for his second title in his third tournament back since returning from a seven month layoff.
It’s the match fans have been salivating over since Nadal announced he would be playing in Acapulco for the first time since 2005, the year he won his maiden French Open.
This match is also the one these two men have desired. It the perfect intersection for Nadal as the 11- time grand slam champion will be able to put what has been his best tennis since returning directly against the best opponent he has faced. For Ferrer, Nadal is ripe for the picking. The king of clay isn’t yet exuding the majestic dominance that has allowed him to sit in atop the throne of clay court tennis for so many years.
The odds makers have Nadal as the slight favorite but I would suspect there are many out there that firmly believe Ferrer’s four-peat in Acapulco will come into fruition.
To the winner goes 500 ranking points and $291,800.
Head to Head: Nadal leads 16-4
Last Meeting: 2012 French Open- Nadal d. Ferrer 6-2 6-2 6-1
Career Titles: Nadal-51; Ferrer-20
Odds: Nadal -200; Ferrer +150 (Nadal very slim favorite)
Rafael Nadal’s forehand, when executed to its full potential on clay, is one of the greatest shots in tennis history. Viciously struck, Nadal generates an incredible amount of racket head speed as he drives straight up the back ball in order to impart upon the ball the tremendous quantities of topspin he is so famous for. Nadal’s forehand produces more revolutions per minute than any other forehand in the history of tennis—truly unprecedented spin. His forehand has caused Roger Federer more headaches and losses than he would probably like to think about. Nadal’s forehand will force David Ferrer to crowd the baseline because as such a short guy, Ferrer knows Nadal will be looking to make him play balls outside of his strike zone. Not forgetting about Nadal’s opponent, Ferrer’s forehand is also a wonderful shot. The top ranked Spaniard is able to inject significant amounts of topspin as well and is extremely potent going inside out. Against Nadal, he may have to look to go inside in more than inside out as playing inside out means he goes right into the Rafa forehand.
Ferrer’s weakest shot is his backhand. It’s not a bad shot by any means, but is the side where he generates less pace and tends to be less consistent. Nadal’s backhand is definitely weaker than his forehand but he is still able to do a lot with it. Over the years, tennis fans have witnessed no shortage of marvelous backhand passing shots from Rafa.
Nadal’s service motion has improved over the years as he has developed a serve with an improved trophy position thus increasing his racket head speed and as a result the speed of his serve. His second serve can be a liability at times, but for the most part does not hinder his success as he is able to defend his service games so well due to his immaculate ground game. Ferrer’s first serve isn’t too powerful thus Nadal should feel like he can move closer to the baseline than he has been standing throughout the tournament. In addition, Ferrer’s second serve is vulnerable, but Nadal doesn’t usually take an aggressive stance on second serve returns. As a result, Ferrer can probably implement his standard second serve.
Return of Serve: Ferrer
Outside of Murray and Djokovic, Ferrer is probably the best returner in all of tennis. He does everything characteristic of a great returner including moving forward, taking the ball early and shortening up his backswing. In addition, he is unafraid of taking big cuts on second serves and looking to take control of the point, a strategy that will be very crucial to Ferrer’s chances in this match. Nadal has always played pretty deep on his returns which pretty much eliminates any possibility of him being a great returner
Nadal, in my opinion, has the most underrated volleys in all of tennis. He closes off the net with terrific mastery and has some of the fastest and softest hands on tour. Even though Nadal can be characterized as an offensive baseliner, he could easily implement an all court style of play if he so desired. Ferrer is solid at net as well, but like Nadal, he moves forward infrequently.
Not only do Ferrer and Nadal have Mach 5 speed, but they both are fitness titans. These guys pour their heart and souls into getting to each and every shot and will do so for as long as it requires. And this propensity to play each point like its match point is facilitated by physical resiliency. At an equal level, Nadal and Ferrer are able to push their bodies in ways that most mortal beings simply cannot.
Intangibles: Slight Advantage Nadal
Although Nadal has only lost to Ferrer once on clay (Stuggart 2004), hasn’t lost a set to Ferrer on clay since 2008, and is the favorite on paper, Ferrer will certainly have to feel that he has a fighting chance in this match. Unlike their meeting in the 2012 French Open semifinal, Nadal doesn’t seem quite as invincible as discussed in the onset of this piece. The top seed will surely have to muster up as much belief as possible if he seeks to take down Rafa in a final on clay. Ferrer knows it can be done and Nadal knows it can be done, so rest assured, the intensity level in this one will be astronomically high.
Prediction: Nadal to take out Ferrer in two tight sets