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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wild card Ferrero outplays Simon

Photo Titled Gilles Simon
France's Gilles Simon in action during his straight sets defeat to Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Juan Carlos Ferrero became the first wild card since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 to make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after clinically dispatching eighth seed Gilles Simon 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-2.

The Spaniard played solid tennis throughout the contest and stood firm while his opponent crumbled mentally around him. After injuries kept him out of action for the best part of six months, 2003 French Open champion Ferrero had slipped to 115 in the world at the time when direct acceptance was decided for Wimbledon, but he then went on to reach the semi-finals at Queen’s (the furthest he has even been on grass) and will now be back into the top 40 when the rankings are updated next Monday.

Simon, meanwhile, had been on a terrible run coming into the tournament, barely able to string two wins together over the past few months, but he put this behind him to make a run to the fourth round here, dropping only one set on the way. Confidence is an enormous factor in his game however, and it was clear from the off that he was going to struggle today.

“Get your first serve in!” “I’ve never served so badly before”, “He always chooses the right side to go, that really hacks me off” and finally, “I’m so unhappy”. This was Simon’s impromptu press conference, held over the course of the first set as he squandered an early break, battled his way back, served for the set and even had a set point, only to go down 7-4 in the eventual tiebreak.

He was looking morosely towards the French enclave in the press box containing his coach Thierry Tulasne (himself a former world No.10) and 1997 Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline, who seemed more concerned with watching the Centre Court scoreboard as the Amelie Mauresmo – Dinara Safina match ebbed and flowed.

While this soul-searching and chest-beating was going on, Ferrero quietly went about his business at the other end, putting in the kind of phlegmatic performance that took him to the top of the ATP rankings six years ago. The 29-year-old stuck to his game plan, and the breaks continued to come.

To his credit, Simon tried everything that he could and sent down services ranging from 129 mph to a mere 64 mph at one point, but Ferrero won 29 of his 38 receiving points on the Frenchman’s second serve, while his own first service was good enough to carry him through.

He broke once mid-way through the second and again early in the third, by which time Simon was going through the motions and mentally was already in the hard-court season that will suit his game better.

For Ferrero, meanwhile, the dream is still alive. And to think that he needed a wild card to just to make it into the first round.

Court 3 - Gentlemen's Singles - 4th Round
Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP Winner7766
Gilles Simon FRA (8)6432

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