Ferrer’s finest season may still get finer

CHRISTOPHER CLAREY

The big four are done for the season (money-spinning South American exhibitions not included). But tennis's fifth man plays on, which only seems fitting. "The day when I can't summon all that energy, I won't do this anymore," Ferrer said in a recent interview.

He had planned in 2012 to conserve energy by skipping Davis Cup. That strategy lasted one round. By April, he was back under his captain, Alex Corretja, for the quarterfinals in Castellón. In September, he stayed true to the cause for the Davis Cup semifinals, a few days after reaching the US Open semifinals.

Now, Ferrer will continue ripping returns and hunting down balls as he attempts to lead Spain to a sixth Davis Cup title, this time on the road against the Czech Republic. And although Ferrer has acknowledged that recovering from his Cup exertions has been a challenge in the second half of the season, they do not appear to have hurt his bottom line.

This has been far and away his finest season, as he has produced a 74-15 record and won a tour-high seven titles. He also reached the quarterfinals or better in the four Grand Slam events.

Plus he has added bite to his two-handed backhand. But for all that improvement and achievement, Ferrer is standing still in the rankings. He was No.5 when the season began — behind Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal — and will be No.5 when it finishes.

Stuck forever behind nadal

Such is the somber side of this golden age in which Ferrer toils: Even in a year when Nadal missed half the season, Ferrer still finds himself the second-ranked Spaniard because of Nadal's brilliant results in the six months he did play.

But Ferrer — 21-4 in Davis Cup singles matches — does not do bitterness, at least not publicly. "Rafa is the most down-to-earth and humble star that I know," Ferrer said. "I think he's a better person than a tennis player. He doesn't give more importance to tennis than it deserves. I see it the same way."

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