Tonight, Novak Djokovic has thrashed Roger Federer, arguably the greatest player of all-time, whilst Andy Murray will be preparing to meet arguably the tour’s form player. David Ferrer stands in the way of Murray’s date with Djokovic in tomorrow’s Australian Open semi-final. Ferrer, a Spaniard, won the Auckland Heineken Open two weeks ago and is henceforth undefeated this season after his blistering straight sets victory over his Davis Cup partner Rafael Nadal.
The clay-court specialist has also defeated Lithuania’s hot prospect Richard Berankis, and another rookie in Mailos Raonic en route to the semi-finals. He holds a 3-2 winning record over Murray, but that could be considered inconclusive as all three of Ferrer’s victories were on clay, his favoured surface, and Murray’s wins were on his preferable hard courts.
Interestingly enough, the last time the two met was only two months ago in the season-ending World Tour Finals in London. Murray was victorious on this occasion, winning 6-2, 6-2. It might sound convincing, but the 23-year-old was forced to wrestle his way back from Ferrer’s early break and face five break points throughout the match.
Murray won’t read too much into that result. An evening match in Melbourne’s grand slam is a world away from the indoor, air-conditioned court in London’s o2 arena. The Scot was winding down to the end of a season which he finished in poor form, and Ferrer could consider it a success to even qualify for the end of season championships, having previously failed to do so since 2007.
A Davis Cup winner in 2009 with Spain, Ferrer is a tricky customer yet doesn’t possess many weapons in his game. Federer has heralded the 28-year-old as the best returner in the game, whilst he is also one of the fittest around. His overall acceleration and net play may not be up to the standard of the supremely athletic Murray, but his deep, accurate hitting could pay dividends in the longer baseline rallies, which Murray may want to avoid.
Ferrer will rarely be seen being mobbed like Murray, Nadal or Roger Federer, yet the Valencia native is riding on some powerful momentum and can trouble Murray. This year’s final will be the first grand slam final since the Australian Open in 2008 to not feature Nadal or Federer, and with the tradition of surprise finalists such as Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsogna in recent Australian Open finals, Ferrer has a rare, golden chance to extend this trend.