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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

One to watch: Juan Carlos Ferrero

Photo Titled Juan Carlos Ferrero
Juan Carlos Ferrero
Wild card Juan Carlos Ferrero has played some majestic tennis on his way to the quarter-finals, collecting the scalps of two seeds on the way. This is the Spaniard's ninth visit to The Championships and he is trying to go one better than his previous best here, a quarter-final in 2007. Andy Murray is the only thing standing in his way.

A bit like Lleyton Hewitt this year, the 29-year-old Spaniard is something of a comeback king. They are both unseeded, though Ferrero is the lowliest ranked player, at 70, to get this far. (Hewitt is ranked 56).

But it was not always thus. Ferrero was world No.1 for eight weeks in 2003, the year he won the French Open and reached final of the US Open. Last year was the first time he had finished outside the top 50 since he turned professional in 1998.

Ferrero's progress to the quarters has been impressive. His first two victims were 44th ranked Mikhail Youzhny and 37th ranked Fabrice Santoro. He then dismissed 10th seed Fernando Gonzalez in a five-setter in the third round, and followed that up with an easy defeat of eighth seed Gilles Simon in the last 16.

Ferrero has played Murray only once before – in the semi-finals of Queen’s just a few weeks ago, a match Murray won in straight sets. But Ferrero says he is playing with more rhythm than at Queen’s and that he has learned something about Murray’s play, saying: "I have to be aggressive all the time, because he likes to play on one level, and then he changes the rhythm very fast.

"I think [it] is very difficult to play against him because of this. So I will focus on my return, because his serve has been very, very big. If I want to win, [it is] going be very difficult. He is at home win and everybody wants him to win."

Even after Murray’s marathon match under the Centre Court roof on Monday, the Spaniard has spent just six minutes less on court than Murray.

Ferrero is only the third wild card to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals. In 1986, Pat Cash lost to Andre Agassi, but Ferrero would prefer to remember Goran Ivanisevic's example in 2001 when the Croat went on to win the title.

“I would like to repeat what [Ivanesevic] did. But of course it's a little bit difficult yet to say. I'm happy about the wild card and happy about the game that I'm playing.”

Whatever happens, this performance alone will see him shoot back up the rankings. In May, at the time of the Wimbledon cut off, the Spaniard was ranked 115. Reaching the quarter-finals guarantees that he will be back in the top 40. If he beats Murray, he is expected to return to the top 35.

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