On paper this match was not set out to be a particularly thrilling one. Rafael Nadal would have been excused for not being fully focused on the matchup against David Ferrer as he had already qualified for the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals. However, both put all their effort into the match and the result was a long and grueling three set battle.
Ferrer Fights Through First Set
Ferrer was serving first, but Nadal put on an aggressive display to lead 2-0 immediately. Ferrer fought hard to get back from 0-30 in his next service game, but it wasn't enough. Nadal’s strong play saw him break for a second time with a half volley at the net. The underdog showed his first signs of life in the match as he gained a break point on Nadal's serve with a forehand winner. He broke the lefty's serve after a wayward forehand from Nadal. Ferrer, who seemed to have been given a new lease of life, held and broke Nadal again to push the score to 3-3. Having dipped in level, Nadal made a couple of unforced errors to trail 4-3 on serve. Both men then held serve once more to get to 5-4 in favor of Ferrer.
Ferrer pushed on Nadal’s next service game, but the higher seed held to 5-5. The pressure was on the 8th seeded Ferrer as they reached the business end of the set and he dropped to 0-30 on serve. Nadal broke with an error from Ferrer’s racquet. The lefty would have trouble serving out the set however and Ferrer pushed it to a tiebreak. The breaker was decided on errors as no winners were hit. Ferrer got to the stage where he had set himself up with four set points. On the first, Nadal’s shot was called out, but overruled by the umpire. Ferrer challenged and the ball was indeed out to hand the set to Ferrer by a score of 7-2 in the tiebreak.
Nadal Finds Form In Set Two
Nadal began the set serving and started with a double fault. That was followed with a backhand into the net, but a forehand volley followed with a fist pump to show Rafa was still fighting hard. The game went to deuce, but Nadal fought hard to hold for a 1-0 lead. That was followed by a solid hold of serve from Ferrer. Both players held twice more and again Ferrer couldn't make an impression on Nadal's serve as the younger Spaniard held to love again for a 4-3 advantage.
Scoreboard pressure was on Ferrer as Nadal went up 0-40 with a chance to lead 5-3 and to possibly serve out the set. On his second chance, Nadal used a strong backhand to force an error from Ferrer to indeed take the lead at 5-3. Nadal would easily set up three set points for himself in the next game and took the set on his first try. He ran Ferrer back and forth with a forehand winner to end the rally and even the match at one set each.
Nadal Finishes Strong
Ferrer began the third set serving and Nadal stepped forward immediately. The lefty used aggressive tactics to forge himself a break point. That was quickly extinguished by Ferrer’s one-two punch strategy. The 8th seed earned himself a game point with a superb lob right into the corner, but Nadal pulled off a stunning forehand on the run to get it back to deuce. In what was the longest game of the tournament so far, Ferrer managed to scrape a hold together after almost 14 minutes to lead 1-0. Despite the thrilling first game of the set, neither player could make the crucial breakthrough and the score soon reached 4-4 after a series of service holds.
The next game proved to be the turning point as Nadal earned two break points and took the game on the first try with a forehand pass down the line. Serving for the match, Nadal hit some stunning forehand winners that blasted Ferrer off the court to bring up two match points. The lefty would close out the set at 6-4 to finish off the match in two hours and 37 minutes.
Semifinal Showdown Against Djokovic
Next up for Nadal is a showdown with nemesis Novak Djokovic. Throughout their round robin matches, Nadal’s level has been higher on average. He solidly defeated Stan Wawrinka and put on a polished display to finish off Andy Murray. Djokovic comprehensively defeated Kei Nishikori, but was on the receiving end of an upset by Roger Federer in his second match. The Serb still committed many unforced errors on his way to a win against Tomas Berdych in his final match of the group on Thursday. This match against Ferrer today may have fatigued Nadal too much for him to make an impression on Djokovic tomorrow. But, if Djokovic plays below his best level and the Spaniard comes out firing, who knows? It is certainly a match to watch.