Record-maker Ferreira full of regret
Wednesday June 23, 2004
There was a touch of melancholy in Wayne Ferreira's voice yesterday, despite just having played his way into the record books by beating Ivan Ljubicic 5-7, 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 on his 55th consecutive grand slam appearance.
Ferreira bettered Stefan Edberg's record the moment he hit his first ball against the Croatian, yet afterwards his demeanour was that of a man with his mind on what he had not done, rather than what he had.
"I do have regrets that I didn't win a grand slam or get to a final," said the 32-year-old, who has confirmed he plans to retire after the US Open in September. "I felt there were some years I had a really good chance and deserved to."
Against Ljubicic, the South African did enough to remind those watching why he has won 15 titles, been twice an Australian Open semi-finalist, made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and was, in the early 90s, a regular fixture in the world's top 20.
Ferreira has also fought many battles against the Association of Tennis Professionals as the leader of the breakaway players' union, the International Men's Tennis Association, which was the driving force behind last year's threatened boycott of the grand slams over the issue of prize-money. Despite those efforts, he said with some feeling that the sport is in far worse shape than it was when he played his first grand slam match in 1990.
"I don't think it's that good right now, I think it needs a lot of help," he said. "I went through that whole process of trying to help it but I'm not sure if I'm going to be around to do it anymore."
One of those problems is a relentless schedule which many observers blame for the numerous injuries which have truncated some careers and ended others. The aches and pains which have become an intrinsic part of the modern game are exactly what makes Ferreira's achievement so remarkable. To remain injury free throughout all four of the season's grand slams is hard enough these days, let alone to manage it for 55 in a row.
"It's not something I started thinking about at the beginning of my career, but during the last two or three grand slams a lot of the players have started congratulating me," he said, "and many have respect for me because they know how difficult it is to stay healthy for this amount of time."
He received a scare a year ago, when a fall at the French Open jeopardised his chances of playing at Wimbledon, but the ankle recovered in time for him to keep his streak going.
It would have been unbearably cruel for fate to have stopped him achieving yesterday's notable milestone. At least now he can cross that off his list of regrets.