Defining Talent through David Ferrer
The narrative surrounding David Ferrer has been expressed and echoed ad nauseam over the last couple years as the Spaniard has ascended back to the top of the ATP rankings on the back of some of the best tennis of his career.
The narrative goes something like this:
“David Ferrer is an absolute beast out there; he scraps and fights for every single ball. If people could be antonyms, David Ferrer would be an antonym for the word quit. He never gives up. He’s so diminutive, yet so ferocious.”
I have no problem with this. The resilience and passion Ferrer displays on the court is something to be admired by all tennis players and is surely something I will always remember him for.
But the narrative doesn’t end there. It expands into a conversation about Ferrer’s mainstay near the top of the game despite not having any real artillery—maybe a little something like this:
“It’s amazing how well Ferrer does considering he has no true weapons, no true finishing shots by which to draw. You just know he is going to put every ball back into play and make his opponents play that one extra shot.”
This is where issues arise for me. If you read my last article on the value of consistency in tennis, it becomes pretty obvious that you’ll win a lot of tennis matches if you are repeatedly putting the ball into the court just one more time than your opponent over the duration of a match.
And, let it be known, at the professional level, monumental efforts are required to win matches day in and day out when your game is primarily based off grinding out your opponents, yet Ferrer is able to do this on an insanely consistent basis.
In tennis, those who are seen as talented are usually the shot makers and the heavy hitters. Undeniably, those graceful with their wands like Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet and others with a penchant for power such as Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have been adorned with superior tennis skills.
But who’s to say David Ferrer hasn’t? Is his consistency not a weapon that has executed the best laid plans of endless opponents? Is his ability day in and day out to retrieve and salvage every ball not a skill that every tennis player aspires to have? Has his grit and resolve throughout points not finished off his adversaries through thousands and thousands of points? Just ask Nicolas Almagro, one of hardest and most potent ball strikers on tour, but 0-13 against his fellow countryman, whether or not David Ferrer has no true weapons.
I’m not asking anyone to redefine what it means to be a talented tennis player, but rather, I’m simply requesting that we magnify our definition of talent in tennis and what it means to have weapons as a tennis player because if Jeremy Chardy is a talented tennis player, a tennis player with weapons and finishing power, then David Ferrer sure as hell is too.