U.S. Open: Simon d. Ferrer
“It's different, definitely. I mean, older guys, they are just ten centimeters taller and 15 kilos also more than before. Before it was about the game. Now I feel it's more about the serve, the return. But that's how it is. I just try my best every time to beat the guy I have in front of me.”—Gilles Simon on the state of the game following his 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 third-round upset of No. 4 seed David Ferrer.
NEW YORK—It seemed like the assignment from hell, a match with Ferrer, the ultimate grinder, on a day when the mercury zoomed into the 90s with humidity over 50 percent—and that was without the microwave effect of playing inside a reflective cement bowl surrounded by some eight or ten thousand bodies.
“To play David in this condition is really demanding physically,” Simon said later. “At one point I was really tired. I felt it would be difficult. But then I had more energy; I felt he was in trouble, also.”
Simon, who’s seeded just a lowly 26th here, was in many ways the right man for this grueling assignment, even though Ferrer had a 5-1 head-to-head advantage going in (in fact, Simon hadn’t even won a set from him since the 2011 Cincinnati Masters). Still. Once ranked as high as No. 6 (2009), Simon is the closest thing in tennis to that critter that was born to run, the North American antelope.
In fairness to the 32-year-old Ferrer, he’s paying an increasing price these days for a style based on consistency, stamina, and a strong will that stubbornly blanks out the realities of his age and relatively diminutive size. Just 5’9”, he showed signs in this match of having some sort of muscle tear under his right armpit, and at times he visibly limped. More alarming, at one point late in the match he pressed an index and middle finger to his neck to take stock of his pulse. Perhaps he was a good thing that Simon finished him off just a few moments later.
Regardless, this was a match in which Simon out-Ferrered Ferrer. The Frenchman won 28 of the 44 second-serve points Ferrer tossed into the box. Ferrer won just three of 11 break points, compared to Simon’s seven of nine conversion. And Simon won 25 of the 34 rally shots that lasted between five and eight hits.
Simon himself is just 29, and his fall in the rankings has a lot to do with injuries—most recently, back troubles early this year. He admits, “I'm getting older and I can't run like this every day. It's harder to be fit on every tournament. At that time (2009) I was just running every day. Like it was normal for me. I feel I'm a better tennis player, that I play better, but the ranking is over one year. When you have too many injuries, then it's hard to have the same ranking.”
There’s no doubt that the game has changed around Simon in the decade-plus that he’s been on the tour. As well, the drop in his ranking has left him meeting high seeds in the third round at every major this year, including Wimbledon, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
Don’t worry about Ferrer, though. He’s tough and tensile and he probably has a lot of tennis left to give. “No, no, I am okay,” he reassured some anxious press members after the match. “It's one match of my career. Don't worry. Now we have couple of weeks to rest, to stay home and enjoy my family.”