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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ferrero produces vintage display

Photo Titled Juan Carlos Ferrero
Juan Carlos Ferrero
Juan Carlos Ferrero, the former world number one, came through an extraordinary match to beat the number 10 seed Fernando Gonzalez on No.1 Court. Ferrero, playing as a wild card because his ranking was not high enough to justify automatic entry into the draw, emerged victorious from a see-saw encounter 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. He will play Gilles Simon in Monday’s last 16.

This match had a curious feel to it. It was as if there should be a great gulf between the two players, partly because of their respective rankings (Ferrero was number 115 on May 11, the date of Wimbledon’s entry cut-off, although he is now number 70) but also because of their ages. It feels somehow that Gonzalez is a much newer face, and that Ferrero is definitely the veteran. But actually there is less than six months between them, with Gonzalez turning 29 at the end of July.

Early in the first set the Chilean – playing with a heavily-strapped right knee – broke the Ferrero serve. Even then it felt as if this would be the blueprint for the match – that Ferrero had done well to make the third round, but that he could not make it into the second week. Gonzalez was to go on and capture that first set 6-4, but the next two sets unexpectedly upset what felt like the pattern.

The second set felt much tighter. Gonzalez had an early break point but sent a wild forehand wide. Then just when a tiebreak looked inevitable, right at the death, with Ferrero 6-5 on serve, the Spaniard grabbed and converted break point. It was a bolt from the blue, and Ferrero greeted it with a Nadal-like cry of: “Vamos!”

The third was every bit as tight, although quicker to wind up to its climax – and once again the outcome felt wholly unexpected. Ferrero was at 5-4 on serve when a half-volley forced a backhand error for double set point. Heroically, Gonzalez saved both. Ferrero would not yield, seizing a wonderful crosscourt return off a slow second serve for another set point.

The Chilean’s face was bleak with regret as he watched the ball whistle past him, and when Ferrero sent a marvellous passing shot down the line to make it two sets to one, it was too much. Gonzalez smashed his racked twice into the turf, earning a code violation from umpire Fergus Murphy.

As you might expect, Ferrero – who had won just one of his 10 previous encounters against top 10 players – selected this moment for a toilet break. Gonzalez’s foul temper receded as quickly as it had arrived, and he waited for his opponent sitting comically on his upended racket on the baseline, grinning and waving at the applauding crowd.

But a long opening game proved that he still meant business. He out-thought Ferrero to take the break at once, and clenched his fist to show that the clowning was over. Then just as Ferrero was preparing to serve at 2-4, an announcement came unexpectedly over the public address system that the match might be completed on Centre Court later in the evening.
It was all rather confusing – certainly to Gonzalez, who went over to the umpire to ask him to explain what had been said. Ferrero also seemed unsettled, but it did not affect the outcome of the set (although over on Centre Court the roof had closed, and many people were waiting patiently with no more matches scheduled there). Gonzalez closed it out 6-4.

Far from tiring, the two players were going at it with renewed vigour, much to the delight of the crowd (with whom, understandably, the announcement that this match might switch to the Centre Court had not been terribly popular).

Amid light drizzle, Ferrero saved break points. But the set stayed on serve until the Spaniard was at 5-4, when – typically of this encounter – the end came out of nowhere. Gonzalez put the ball in the net and suddenly it was match point, whereupon he double faulted. Ferrero fell to the ground before the players embraced at the net, and with supreme courtesy Gonzalez waited for his opponent so they could exit the court together. The crowd rose to them.

Court 1 - Gentlemen's Singles - 3rd Round
Fernando Gonzalez CHI (10)65464
Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP Winner47646

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