David Ferrer beat Richard Gasquet easily in the Tokyo final on Sunday. Let’s find out why Ferrer is on fire this year and Gasquet is not.

Poor Richard Gasquet. This is the second week in a row he’s reached a final, he just slogged his way through a tough three set semifinal, and who does he have to play now? The energizer bunny of the ATP, the guy who outgrinded the biggest grinder of them all at the U.S. Open, one David Ferrer. Ferrer is the player who finally wore out Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open this year.

If Ferrer is an energizer bunny, Gasquet is more like a rechargeable battery – he doesn’t last anywhere near as long. Two tournaments in a row is Gasquet’s max running time. He dropped out of this week’s tournament in Vienna after playing this match whereas Ferrer is playing Stockholm this week and will also play next week in Madrid.

That could also explain why Gasquet has bounced back and forth between a ranking of 8 and 14 since June while Ferrer is in good position to take one of the final eight places in the year end championships. Playing the summer hard court season is a lot harder on the body than gliding around on clay, Gasquet’s favorite surface.

Speaking of conditioning, in the Metz final on Sunday, Andy Murray took the first set from Tommy Robredo 6-0 and ended up losing the match which tells you he ran out of gas. Murray explained it like this:

The lesson to learn is that you must not ease the pressure after winning a set easily.

Another lesson might be to go to the gym more often though in this case, Murray has a legitimate excuse because he’s just coming back after a long layoff for a wrist injury. Still, he’s another one of those guys who could be running more stadium steps and going to a few more spinning classes.

Ferrer was aggressive from the very first point in the match but that’s not so hard when your opponent loses his first two service games while getting less than a quarter of his first serves in.

Ferrer is not an overpowering player but he’s a smart guy. He uses his speed to get to the net and once he’s there he volleys well. This is rarer than you’d think. There are lots of quick players on tour but they seldom use their speed to move forward. They spend all of their time running horizontally behind the baseline.

Gasquet may be smart but he wasn’t during this match. He made two silly plays while he was serving to stay in the first set. First he tried to be cute with a difficult short hop volley and put it into the net. Then he tried to run around his backhand and hit a shot down the line over the highest part of the net. He was too tired to try a shot like that and it gave Ferrer three set points. It took Ferrer only one of those to win the first set 6-1.

Believe it or not, Ferrer is the top returner in the league. Check it out: he’s second only to Nadal in points won returning first serve and he’s number one in the following three categories: break points converted, points won returning second serve, and return games won. That means he’s number one or two in all four return categories. That is impressive!

Except for getting a lot of first serves in, you won’t find Ferrer at the top of any serve statistics. Yet here he was hitting two aces and a service winner to go up 3-0 in the second set. Ferrer was moving the serve around well but it also helped that Gasquet was too knackered to get to the ball.

One more break of Gasquet at the end of the second set and Ferrer has his third title of the year, 6-1, 6-2.

Will Ferrer be one of the eight players left standing at the end of the year? The two biggest tournaments left are the Masters events in Madrid and Paris and they’re both fast indoor events. Ferrer got to the quarterfinals in both places two years ago but he has a losing career record indoors and there are lots of young players who can beat him indoors these days. The main guy he has to worry about is James Blake but Blake has never won a match in Madrid, strangely enough, and he’s never been past the third round at Paris.

Ferrer looks like he’s in but I’ll say this, whenever Gasquet and Murray figure out how to last more than a few tournaments in a row, that’ll be the last time we’ll see David Ferrer at the year end championships because Gasquet and Murray will be there instead.


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