When you see Almagro in person, you wonder why he hasn’t won more. He has a huge serve, that is often competing with Isner and Querrey and Raonic for most aces in a year. He has a big forehand. His backhand, these days, may be the hardest struck one-handed backhand on tour, better than Wawrinka, better than Federer.
And yet one fact remains. Almagro is 0-12 against David Ferrer.
The Spaniards and the French can be passionate people, prone to thinking with their heart than with their head. Only a handful of tennis players are considered crafty, real thinkers on the court. They might include Andy Murray, Bernard Tomic, and, say, Roger Federer. Almagro is rarely mentioned as a brainy player.
Many years ago, Greg Norman, the Aussie player known as “The Shark” played an aggressive form of golf. He aimed for the sticks. This go-for-broke style lead him to the brink of championships but often lead him out as well, as he was just inclined on the final day to play his style, and to watch mistakes pile up as he lost yet another title for lack of prudence. Age didn’t seem to help. A few years ago, recently married to Chris Evert (and since divorced), Norman found himself in the lead at the British Open, and just as he had decades ago, the victory slipped in the final day. Tiger Woods, by contrast, would work to play par, and the occasional birdie on the last day, knowing that players would have to take chances to catch up, and that pressure would lead to mistakes.
So the same can be said of Almagro who simply hit David Ferrer off the court the first two sets. Credit Ferrer, who knows he can’t lash out at balls like Almagro just to weather the storm, to hang in there and hang in there, and wait for Almagro to wear down, to make mistakes.
Almagro took the first two sets, 64 and 64. In the third set, he had a chance to serve out the match, but didn’t. Ferrer took that set, 75.
In set 4, Almagro repeatedly broke Ferrer, had chances to serve out at 54, then at 65. In each opportunity, Almagro never reached game point as Ferrer kept battling. Almagro could have tempered his serve down, played a little more conservatively, but he got to this point hitting hard, and he was going to go down hitting hard, and so Ferrer broke back 3 times, pushed the match to a tiebreak, and won the tiebreak.
By this point, Almagro was cramping, and it was basically over. Almagro managed to slap winners without moving much to win two games. Ferrer should have been stunned, but he went about his workman like way and finally took the set, 6-2.
So a player that might have given Djokovic fits is out, and that 0-12 record against Ferrer is 0-13. Score: 46 46 75 76 62.
The same can perhaps be said about Tomas Berdych. He’s 1-11 against Djokovic, his only win at a Wimbledon semi in 2010. Berdych has a big game, but Djokovic is the best returner in the game. He absorbs pace as well as anyone in the game not named Nadal, and so Berdych, unable to win enough of the long rallies, unable to hit enough big serves, lost once again to the number 1 player in the world: 61 46 61 64.
Tomorrow, Roger Federer takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a player that has beaten him in Slams before, and Andy Murray takes on the hard hitting Jeremy Chardy. These two matches again favor the higher seed, especially Murray over Chardy, but could play close. In particular, Chardy has the kind of firepower that should finally challenge a player like Murray who has been coasting, despite indifferent play.