David Ferrer Ern took to his matches like a determined boxer, willing his 5’9’’ frame to outlast his opponents and out-muscle them. Less possessed with gifted strokes such as the Big Three—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic—he made up for it with sheer will power.
You never knew the outcome of his matches because you understood that David Ferrer would give them every ounce of his ‘Little Beast’ frame, often strong-arming the win against all odds. He’s considered the greatest tennis player to never have won a grand slam.
He played his last match against Alexander Zverev at the Mutua Madrid second round, going out in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1. He conducted himself with the inspired sportsmanlike elegance we’ve gotten used to all these years.
"I just want to say thank you to all the people who made tonight so beautiful. I am so privileged to have wrapped up my tennis career with my people, my family, with the people I love the most. I can just say this -- it's been a marvellous chapter of my life -- the best.
But now I'm going to enter another era with my family and experience different things, and I'm going to enjoy it so much," Ferrer said after the match.
Tributes from the Big Three
Federer paid tribute to his hard-working tenure on the courts that spanned a 20-year career, with 37 ATP titles to show for it, including a few Masters 1000’s.
"I'm a big admirer of his work ethic and personality," said Federer. "The guy has been so solid for the last 20 years and he’s a player that, I think, is on the same level as me. He has my utmost respect.
I just want to wish him the best with everything that his future has in store for him with his family." David Ferrer made one grand slam final, the 2013 French Open, facing off against the ‘king of clay,’ who went on to collect the title among his 11 Roland Garros crowns.
Rafael Nadal congratulated his compatriot on his motivational contributions to the sport of tennis. Ferrer helped Spain achieve three Davis Cup trophies. "You are a great example for everyone of determination and hard work, and you have always behaved in the correct way, doing things right with the values necessary to motivate the youngsters,” said Nadal.
“I'd like to congratulate you on your playing career and above all as a person. You are an exceptional colleague, and you have been throughout your career. We're going to miss you, not just the Spaniards, but the whole of tennis.
I wish you the best for your future." The two clay-court specialists played some epic rallies on the surface throughout the years. Ferrer accomplished his most successful head-to-head against the Big 3 with Novak Djokovic, percentagewise.
The Serb paid tribute to his spirit and devotion. "I have great respect for him as a player and a person. His fighting spirit and his devotion to our sport has won him the admiration of all of us. In a way, it is sad to see him go," said Djokovic.
Known as the “The Little Beast” by some, the 37-year-old favored the less brutal -sounding “Ferru”. Having won 734 matches out of 1,111, his admirable workmanlike ethic produced the fourth best match-win streak among active players.
Among singles players, his record is the fifth best behind the Big Four—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Murray. "I couldn't give any more. I won 27 titles, three Davis Cups. I never won here in Madrid, I could never win a Grand Slam, I couldn't win another trophy that I'd like to have won.
But, I won something that will always be in my heart. It is the support from you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me this evening. This is a special night and the last night of my tennis career. You will always be in my heart always," Ferrer continued, during his retirement ceremony after the Mutua Madrid second round match.
David Ferrer holds the distinction of having won the most matches on the ATP Tour without a grand slam trophy. However, he progressed to two semifinals at both the U.S. and Australian Opens, and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, 2012-2013.
That same year the Spaniard achieved a career high of world No. 3. David Ferrer will be missed on The Tour. He retires a distinguished champion both on-court and off.