When it comes to endurance, David Ferrer is a name that often comes to mind.
The third-seeded Ferrer has stayed true to his Spanish roots and is a grinder on the court. He has made a career of never giving up, never going away and playing more tournaments than most of his fellow top-10 colleagues.
On Friday, in a match between two over-30 players, the 30-year-old Ferrer displayed his tenacity by taking a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 semifinal win over 34-year-old Tommy Haas at the Sony Open. Both players have a birthday coming next week: Ferrer will turn 31 Tuesday, and Haas will be 35 Wednesday.
Ferrer trailed Haas 3-1 in the final set, but was never discouraged. As a fatiguing Haas began racking up the errors, Ferrer’s winning strategy was to make the points last even longer.
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When Ferrer, most often unemotional on court, finally prevailed, he seemed on the verge of tears as he waved to the crowd. He had been in two other semifinals in Miami — losing to Rafael Nadal in 2005 and Roger Federer in 2006 — and now would be making his first trip to the Sony Open final.
“I tried to fight every point,” Ferrer said. “I know Tommy, in the third set, he was a little bit more tired than me.”
For his determination, Ferrer’s reward is a chance to even his head-to-head record against Andy Murray, who currently leads the Spaniard 6-5 in career meetings.
Murray, the 2009 Sony Open champion and a finalist last year, moved into his third Key Biscayne final with a 6-7 (7-3), 6-1,6-2 win over eighth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France.
The second-seeded Murray, who lives part of the year in Miami, is playing with more confidence since his sensational 2012 summer when he won his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open and the Olympic gold medal in singles.
On Sunday, Murray will be in the hunt for his second title of the year — he successfully defending his Brisbane title in January — and the 26th tournament victory of his career. He’s 18-2 in matches this year.
“It’s a tough match because he’s an unbelievable competitor and he’s a great fighter,” Murray said of facing Ferrer. “We train a lot together, we practice a lot, so we know each other’s game well, and it should be a really tough match with long rallies.”
On the changeover before the final set, Gasquet had the trainer on court working on his right ankle, which he said started to bother him at the last tournament in Indian Wells, and visibly had trouble moving in the third set.
“I didn’t know exactly when he was starting to feel it, but he definitely wasn’t moving in the third set toward his forehand side,” Murray said. “So the tactic changed, and I tried to make him run to that side.”
Ferrer is hoping to score his 21st career title and a second career ATP Masters 1000 title. He won his first Masters 1000 trophy at the Paris-Indoors stop last fall.
“I am in the final; I’m very happy for that,” Ferrer said. “It’s going to be very difficult.”
This season, Ferrer’s already gone to the head of the class in terms of holding a 25-10 win-loss record, winning the most matches of any player on tour. He already has won two titles — Auckland, New Zealand, and Buenos Aires — and reached one other final and two semifinals.
“It’s a pleasure to watch [Ferrer], but tough to play against,” Haas said. “I respect his work ethic a whole lot. It’s really inspirational. Playing against him you know you’re going to have to come up with the goods, and you’re going to have to fight for a lot of balls and put yourself in a position to win, which I felt I did today.”
Despite the semifinal loss, Haas will return to the top 15 in the ATP rankings for the first time in five years Monday.
Ferrer, one of five Spaniards ranked among the top 30, will swap ranking spots with Nadal in the next rankings, going up to No. 4 and pushing Nadal down to No. 5.
Interestingly, Ferrer is the fourth Spanish man to turn up in a Sony Open final — the others were Nadal three times, and Carlos Moya and Sergi Bruguera once each.