It has now been months since David Ferrer decided to bring his playing career to an end at home and with his loved ones around him. He knew that his last match as a professional had to be at the Mutua Madrid Open. And that time has come. The Alicante native, with all the training sessions, events, tributes and press duties, is going through one of the most emotional weeks of his life.
Therefore, his fellow players wanted to tell the player from Javea what they believe ‘Ferru’ represents for the recent history of tennis. Both those that have coincided with him at tournaments for years, and those that are younger but already looked to him as a role model before turning professional.
“For me it’s a special moment because I used to watch him on TV playing big matches when I was just ten years old and, twelve years later, I was playing against him”, says Thiem, who grew up watching Ferru’s feats on television. And he is not the only one who saw Ferrer as an example to follow: “I’m very sad to see that he’s retiring because he is one of the players I used to look up to when I was young. I’ve learnt so much from him” confesses Nishikori.
But, of course, it is in Spain where the young players most wanted to be like Ferrer: “I think he has been a role model for me and for the generation of young players that are coming behind me”, says one of the biggest promises of Spanish tennis, Balearic Islander Jaume Munar. Nadal himself recognises this: “You are a great example for everyone of determination and hard work, and you have always behaved in the correct way, doing things right with the values necessary to motivate the youngsters”.
But if there is one thing that all the generations that have shared a stage with the Alicante native agree on, it is their complete admiration for him. “I’m a big admirer of his work ethic and personality. The guy has been so solid for the last 20 years and he’s a player that, I think, is on the same level as me” confesses none other than, many people’s greatest player of all time, Roger Federer.
Another player who professes great respect for him is the current world number one, the Serbian Novak Djokovic: “I have great respect for him as a player and a person. His fighting spirit and his devotion to our sport has won him the admiration of all of us. In a way it is sad to see him go”.
Juan Martín del Potro also ran out of superlatives to talk about his friend: “One of the greatest players of this sport and one of the best people the tour has had is retiring. I can’t do any more than thank him for everything he has done for this sport and the way he has carried himself both on and off the court”.
Another player who is in no doubt is Thiem: “His career is truly exceptional. He has one of the best careers in the history of tennis”. Along the same lines, Nishikori believes that the phenomenon of Ferru is unique in the history of tennis: “It’s incredible, everything he has done, his career, playing at such a high level for so long… I don’t think anyone has done that before”.
His retirement undoubtedly leaves a bittersweet taste on tour. “I’m sad, but happy to have been able to enjoy time with him during his incredible career”, ended Nishikori. Delpo shared the sentiment: “I wish him the best in this new phase of his life. We’re really going to miss him. A friend is retiring, someone whom I have great respect, admiration and affection for”.
Diego Schwartzman, another Argentinian also wanted to take the chance to leave a message for his friend: “It was a pleasure to share these years with you competing, training and sharing special moments. I learnt to love you both on and off the court. I wish you great happiness in this new phase of your life”.
Federer also wanted to send him a farewell message: “He has my utmost respect. I just want to wish him the best with everything that his future has in store for him with his family”. Thiem touched on the gap Ferrer’s retirement will leave in tennis: “I can only wish him the best. He’s a great player and an even better person. Tennis will really miss him”.
But the most special messages came from his fellow Spaniards. Munar spoke of the legend that the Valencian player has become: “He defined an era in Spain together with Rafa. I can only speak of gratitude to him. I think David will always be in tennis for Spain and for the world”.
But it will be Nadal, who has had so many epic battles with Ferrer on the courts, who will miss his great friend on tour the most: “I’d like to congratulate him on his playing career and above all as a person. You are an exceptional colleague and you have been throughout your career. We’re going to miss you, not just the Spaniards, but the whole of tennis. I wish you the best for your future”.