Captain Consistent, David Ferrer, has upheld his end of the bargain for a Rafa rematch, reaching a tenth straight Grand Slam quarter-final with a four-set dismissal of South African Kevin Anderson.
The Spanish fifth seed has not lost before the quarter-finals since the 2011 US Open and there were few indications Anderson would be the man to break that trend on Monday.
This, after all, was a rematch of their Roland Garros clash at the same stage last year, where the world No.19 – more at home on faster hardcourts – could only salvage five games. Bidding to become the first South African since Wayne Ferreira at the 2003 Australian Open to reach the last eight of a major, he would at least take a set in their 2014 rematch before falling in four, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1.
“It was really tough, no? Kevin played a really good match. When I won the two sets it was really tough. I’m happy I’m in quarter-final here in Paris,” Ferrer said ahead of an anticipated showdown with Nadal, the man who beat him in last year’s Roland Garros decider. “I try always for revenge of Rafael. He beat me many times, more times than I beat him,” he grinned.
Against Anderson, the 32-year-old started the stronger on Monday, breaking in the opening game of the match. It was enough to fire up Big Kev from Johannesburg. He clocked backhand and forehand winners down the line, back-to-back, before rushing the net on break point to draw the error from the Spaniard.
With the pressure of one of the most tenacious returners in the men’s game hovering behind the baseline at the other end, Anderson's usual go-to weapon - his big serve - was not making inroads early on. Ferrer broke again for 2-1 and would not relinquish the advantage. Scrambling three metres behind the baseline, the Spaniard ran down a decent volley to crack a backhand pass, going on to hold for 4-2. His superior court speed was again on display with Big Kev serving to stay in the set. Ferrer chased down a drop shot to make the forehand winner and took the opener when Anderson double faulted after 43 minutes.
Play followed a similar pattern in the second, with the Spaniard running around his backhand to string a forehand winner down the line, breaking for 4-2 when Anderson’s backhand ricocheted off the net post. Down two sets Anderson, enjoying his best start to a season on tour, rallied to survive break points before breaking the Spaniard for 3-1. Again the South African could not sustain the advantage, dropping his next service game before forcing the tiebreak at 6-6.
With points on serve to 3-3 in the tiebreak, it was Ferrer who faltered first, overcooking a forehand down the line and missing an open court forehand to give his opponent the minibreak, 5-3. Desperate to at least make the South African serve out the set, Ferrer played the point of the match, scampering side to side before hitting an angled running forehand winner out of reach of Big Kev’s reach. Anderson would take it 7-5 when Ferrer netted a forehand after 64 minutes.
It was enough for the Spaniard to stop the rot. He went on a tear in the fourth, breaking twice. Anderson finally got on the board with an ace for 1-5. A crosscourt forehand winner and the fifth seed had equalled Alex Corretja in second place on the list of most match wins by a Spaniard at Roland Garros. As is often the case, only one Spaniard stands above him. He is likely to get another crack at that man in the quarter-finals.