ESPN Tennis: David Ferrer


Aching joints and muscles are nothing new on the men's and women's tennis tours, but the injury bug seems to be biting even more than usual this year.

Three players who were coming off significant injury problems a year ago -- Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova -- have stayed relatively fit, but a lot of their rivals can't say the same.

Here's a quick recap of some of the problems the top players have been experiencing this season.

ATP Tour
Rafael Nadal -- Suffered a back injury in the Australian Open final, and, although he says it hasn't bothered him for a while, Nadal hasn't played his best since.

[+] EnlargeDjokovic
Susan Mullane/USA TODAY SportsA wrist injury appears to be behind Novak Djokovic, but it is worth monitoring.
Novak Djokovic -- Suffered a wrist injury before Monte Carlo, which was identified by his physiotherapist as an inflamed tendon. Gave him no problems in Rome after two weeks of treatment and rest, but now he must try to avoid aggravating it.

Stan Wawrinka -- Tweaked his back slightly at Rome, although he insists it will not be a problem for the French Open.

David Ferrer -- Experienced a groin injury that kept him out of Indian Wells, but tests showed no tear and he has looked fit since.

Juan Martin del Potro -- Expected to be out for months after undergoing surgery on his left wrist.

Milos Raonic -- An ankle problem affected him at the Australian Open and kept him out of Davis Cup, but he has returned strongly.

Kei Nishikori -- Withdrew from the Miami semifinals with a groin problem and retired in the Madrid final with a back injury that also kept him out of Rome, but is expected to return at the French Open.

Richard Gasquet -- Has not played since Miami with a back problem, which has improved after extensive treatment but only just allowed him to start hitting balls again. Questionable for the French Open.

Tommy Haas -- The shoulder that repeatedly has required surgery is again giving him problems, including a quarterfinal retirement at Rome a week ago.

John Isner -- Went out of the Australian Open with a foot injury and withdrew from doubles at Madrid with a back problem.

Fabio Fognini -- A right quad problem has affected him throughout the season, perhaps a reason for some of his frustrated performances recently.

Mikhail Youzhny -- Withdrew from Indian Wells with a back injury.

Santiago Giraldo -- Had a hip flexor injury at Rome.

Nicolas Almagro -- A leg problem has affected him in the clay season, including a withdrawal at Rome.

Philipp Kohlschreiber -- has been having an elbow problem, although it hasn't kept him from playing.

Florian Mayer -- A hip injury is expected to keep him out of the French Open.

Gael Monfils -- Withdrew at Nice this week with a persistent ankle problem, saying he could not move well enough for singles, and could be hampered in the French Open.

Benoit Paire -- A persistent knee injury has kept him out of tournaments and caused him to withdraw at Nice this week.

Jurgen Melzer -- Had to withdraw from Acapulco after returning from a shoulder injury, which kept him out until the clay season.

Vasek Pospisil -- Has been experiencing back problems since the start of this season.

Lleyton Hewitt -- Had problems with his shoulder after the Australian Open, but has played regularly since.

Bernard Tomic -- Was booed after retiring to Nadal at the Australian Open, had double hip surgery, got defeated in record time in his first match back and hasn't won since.

WTA Tour
Serena Williams -- A back problem affected her at the Australian Open, and a thigh injury at Charleston and Madrid, but then she swept to the title at Rome a week ago.

[+] EnlargeVictorioa Azarenka
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesVictoria Azarenka has been out of action since Australia, and will miss the French Open.
Victoria Azarenka -- Has not played since the Australian Open with a foot injury and has withdrawn from the French Open.

Agnieszka Radwanska -- A shoulder injury affected her in the Indian Wells final, but she has played regularly.

Simona Halep -- Withdrew from Rome with an abdominal injury and is still adjusting her schedule after becoming a top player.

Angelique Kerber -- Retired at Madrid with a back problem but says she is finding her rhythm again.

Sara Errani -- Was affected by a hip flexor injury in front of her home fans when playing the final at Rome.

Caroline Wozniacki -- Withdrew from Stuttgart with a wrist injury and had knee problems in Madrid that kept her out of Rome.

Ana Ivanovic -- Suffered a hip injury in her run at the Australian Open, but has returned strongly.

Sloane Stephens -- Ongoing wrist problems at the start of the year.

Svetlana Kuznetsova -- Withdrew from Rome with hip injury.

Maria Kirilenko -- Returned at Charleston from a knee problem, only to experience a wrist injury that caused her to withdraw at Madrid.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands -- Underwent hip surgery about a month ago.

Laura Robson -- Underwent wrist surgery about a month ago.
Rafael Nadal stood motionless for a moment or two deep in the second set. He looked confused and vexed, a rare sighting regarding the world's No. 1 player, especially on his oasis of clay.

And when Rafa isn't moving his feet with the vintage intensity that has been a pillar to his success, something just isn't right. Or maybe it was just that his opponent, compatriot David Ferrer, out-intensified Nadal at his own game.

Nonetheless, Nadal suffered a rare loss on clay, falling to Ferrer 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals Friday.

"I cannot be frustrated to lose a tennis match," Nadal told reporters after the match. "In the life, there is much more important things than a tennis match.

[+] EnlargeNadal
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal, who suffered a rare loss on clay Friday, said he played entirely wrong against David Ferrer.
"But I am not happy with it. I feel that I have to do more than what I did today. So when you feel that you can do more, always you come back home or to the next tournament with not the best feeling. That's my feeling today."

Nadal produced a brand of tennis he's not wont to playing: sloppy. He committed an unusually high 44 errors in what was his earliest exit from Monte Carlo in 11 years. Nadal, who is an eight-time champ at the first clay Masters event of the year, had his 30-match win streak on dirt snapped. His last loss, you ask? Same venue, but that was a year ago in last season's final against Novak Djokovic.

Sounds like a confidence issue, no? Perhaps not, according to Nadal.

"Yesterday, too, I played good, with confidence," he said. "But is not that problem. "The problem is when the match became little bit more to the limit, and not answering the right way as I normally do. So that's it."

We can parse Nadal's loss as much as we want. Was it a bad day? Back issues? Knee? Confidence? Or was his opponent just too good? After all, Ferrer is a clay stalwart in his own right. But one thing is clear: Nadal has not been the same player since sweeping last season's summer run, which included wins in Montreal, Cincinnati and, of course, the US Open. And in January, Nadal suffered a surprising loss to eventual champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final. So what gives?

"I don't know," Nadal said. "I don't know. I think after what happened, not only the loss, the pain in my back that I had; I had to do treatment after Australia, not playing for three weeks. I played in Rio. After Rio, I had to stop for 10 or 12 days again because the back still hurt me. ...

"Physical performance is in good shape. No problems about that. Just keep working to try to find the solution for next week in Barcelona. I going to try to play well in there and fight for the matches."

The good news for Nadal is that there's plenty more tennis on the schedule before the French Open, where Rafa has won a record eight times, begins. So we should have more clarity on whether his Monte Carlo malaise was an aberration of if there is something more grave is going on.

Ferrer is no slouch on clay; it's far and away his best surface. But he had dropped 17 straight matches to Nadal on dirt, which is a staggering number no matter how you slice it. It had to be a special feeling to beat the guy who has eviscerated him time and time again, including last season in the French Open final.

Or not.

"Any final is more important than today," Ferrer told reporters. "Of course, important because I am in a semifinal of a Masters 1000. For me it's only one match in my career. Of course is not the most important."

Despite the long wait, Ferrer became only the fourth player to defeat Nadal multiple times on clay, joining Djokovic (three), Gaston Gaudio (three) and Roger Federer (two), according to the ATP World Tour.

Nadal's loss came a day after he notched his 300th career win on clay. And just how utterly dominant has Rafa been on dirt? His record now? An astonishing, if not near infallible, 300-22.

But like life, tennis is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately trade. After falling short, even if by narrow margins, in Melbourne, Indian Wells, Miami and now Monte Carlo, the four biggest tournaments of the year so far, Nadal has done little lately, if we're basing our assessment on winner's trophies.

"No frustration, no drama," Nadal said. "Just a tennis match. But at the end I prefer to win."

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