David Ferrer (right) wore down Juan Martin del Potro in their Davis Cup singles match. (EPA)
David Ferrer has never dazzled with jaw-dropping shotmaking or been considered a prodigious talent who could consistently compete for the big titles. But one thing is clear about the undersized Spaniard: He concedes nothing and fights until the last ball falls.
On Friday, Ferrer put on a tenacious four-hour, 46-minute performance that showed why he is one of the most respected players in the locker room and why he will finish the year in the top five, behind the ATP's alpha males, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Ferrer battled past Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 6-2, 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the second singles match of the Davis Cup final. The 29-year-old improved to 12-0 on clay in Davis Cup singles, calling the marathon "maybe the best match of my career." With Nadal having dismantled Juan Monaco in the opening rubber, Spain leads 2-0 and can clinch its third title in four years with a victory in Saturday's doubles match.
In a match in which momentum seemed to swing from point to point, Ferrer's relentlessness stood out. Ferrer absorbed Del Potro's power and often forced the big man to take far more cuts at the ball in a given point than he would have liked. In the face of Ferrer's steadiness, Del Potro simply punched himself out. After Ferrer grabbed the fourth set, Del Potro's legs were gone, and though the Argentine's heart wasn't (he would fight back from 1-5 to 3-5), the body just couldn't respond.
"All the points were very long and that’s the way he likes it," Del Potro told reporters afterward.
As Ferrer fell to his knees after match point, letting out a roar and soaking in the cheers from 27,000 fans at Olympic Stadium in Seville, the Argentine bench packed up and sulked off, leaving Del Potro to cry under a towel alone. The men in blue knew this wasn't just one match. This was the whole tie.
Ferrer's heroics put Spain in a dominant position. Even if the Spaniards lose the doubles tie, Nadal awaits an assuredly exhausted and emotionally gutted Del Potro on Sunday. Barring an improbable comeback from Argentina, Ferrer, the often-overlooked Spaniard, will end his season on the highest of highs.