If we had to choose one player who looks better on clay than anyone else right now (except Rafa, obviously) it would have to be Nadal's fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Ferrer has at times been a top 10 player in the past and has not been outside of the top 20 since 2005. He obviously looks the most comfortable on clay, where he seems to move best and his shots are the most efficient. This year, in addition to that, Ferrer looks to be playing on a level close to, if not higher than, how he played in 2008 when he reached #4 in the World.
Ferrer's new high level of play was never more evident than on Friday, where he just barely lost to World #2 Novak Djokovic in three thrilling sets in the quarterfinals in Madrid. Yes, he lost the match. But he showed a level of brilliance and talent against Djokovic (who is playing the best tennis in the world at the moment, though Nadal still looks a little stronger on clay) that we have not seen from him yet in his career. He might still be third-best on clay at the moment, but he has closed the gap tremendously.
Ferrer plays a slightly different style than Nadal on clay. Both of them base their games off of defense and great movement to get to every possible ball. But while Nadal trusts his spin to keep his opponents off balance and waits for any tiny opening to pounce and take control of a point, Ferrer works in a different way. His defense is constantly attacking at the same time. Ferrer plays defensive tennis like a game of chess. He moves his opponent around the court and waits for the moment when his opponent is so far out of position that he can't possibly get to the next shot. He also loves taking a short ball and hitting an inside-out forehand at a very sharp angle for clean winners or to at least take absolute control of a point.
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