Tennis

Ferrer seizes day in Paris

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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The story of the week was Jerzy Janowicz, but Sunday belonged to David Ferrer at the Paris Masters. And rightly so.

When the 5-foot-9 Spaniard hugged his 6-8 opponent at the net after his 6-4, 6-3 victory, he was weeping tears of joy at having reached a career milestone. It was Ferrer’s first ATP Masters 1000 title after losing three times in the finals.

“It was a dream for me to win here in Paris Bercy,” he said.

Ferrer, 30, had been kept waiting so long because of the supreme quartet who have gobbled up all the major titles these past five years. But this week, as a result of the damaging decision to do away with the free week between Paris and the ATP World Finals (which begins Monday in London), the top four, as well as other leading players who had already qualified for London, lost a little of their appetite for this event.

Rafael Nadal, of course, was injured. Roger Federer pulled out after winning Basel last Sunday. Novak Djokovic was distracted by his own brief illness and a more serious health problem suffered by his father. And Andy Murray fell victim to Janowicz, even after he had match point against the Pole in the third round.

That all opened the door for Ferrer, who is not a man to be distracted by anything when he has a tennis ball to hit. He has one of those minds which can block out everything except the immediate task at hand. For him it is always just the next point. Ferrer was not going to be thinking of conserving energy when a Masters 1000 title was up for grabs and he produced just the kind of performance one has come to expect from him — focused, efficient and utterly determined.

The score was slightly unkind to Janowicz, who played the world No. 5 on an even keel for the first eight games of the match and broke to lead 2-1 in the second. All the assets which had enabled the 21-year-old from Lodz to overcome five top-20 players over five straight matches during the week were in evidence — the huge serve, the powerful flat-hit forehand and the endless drop shots which had so confused the likes of Murray and Gilles Simon in previous rounds.

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But, unlike his opponent, Janowicz had needed to go through the qualifying to get into the main draw and, as he admitted afterward, he was close to exhaustion.

“Every opponent during this week was tough but today I was actually exhausted, almost,” said Janowicz. “These last three nights, I didn’t sleep much. Also I didn’t have appetite, so I didn’t eat good. So I’m only human and I’m still happy about this final. David played really good today. It was good enough to beat me but this was his fifth match; it was my eighth match. This was the difference. He was a little better.”

Ferrer was ready to pounce on any advantage and said he felt even more pressure than his rookie opponent. “I feel pressure more than him, no, because I played three times a final of Masters 1000 event. He’s a young player and I tried to think about this. I tried to play every point, to be focused and I had more experience than him in that moment, no?”

Ferrer will now have to go straight to London to begin the round-robin matches at the ATP Finals. No respite there. On Tuesday he will find himself facing another huge server in Juan Martin del Potro. But, whatever happens this week, the Spaniard has enjoyed the best season of his long and increasingly impressive career.

For Janowicz, who Ferrer believes has the talent to make the world’s top 10, a new ranking of No. 30 — up from No. 69 — is a leap beyond his wildest dreams. He had set himself a goal of reaching the top 100 at the start of the year and he seems well aware of just what a platform he has given himself for 2013.

“I am now going to be seeded at the Australian Open, which will be a huge help,” he said. “But right now I cannot relax. I just have to keep my focus all the time because there is a good opportunity to attack even stronger. I would love to be top 10 one day.”

Janowicz has just produced one of the most unexpected and impressive performances of the year. But can he do it outdoors, on different surfaces, in different conditions? It will be one of the most fascinating questions hanging over the ATP tour for next year.

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