By Tucker Verdi

Miami Gardens, FL — In the waning hours of Thursday night, after an exceptionally long and thrilling Day 5 of play at the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú, the 5-foot-9 David Ferrer — short by tour standards these days, looked up in awe and waited to address the Stadium Court crowd surrounding him. Sweat percolated on his skin per usual, despite the rather cool spring night in South Florida and the relative ease of his win — a 6-3, 6-2 thumping of American Sam Querrey.

But the thinning crowd that stuck around until just before midnight wouldn’t let him speak quite yet. Fans lined the sides of the court and the aisles, giving Ferrer yet another cheer for a man who has given so much to the sport.

“I’m really happy,” the Spaniard said after the crowd quieted, “because I played really good… I am doing my goal, and my goal is to be competitive.”

The 36-year-old is in the last year of a career that has seen him achieve incredible highs, in spite of how it all began. Spurned by the Spanish Tennis Federation in favor of Tommy Robredo, Ferrer was forced to go it on his own as a professional early on.

From there, the rest is history. Ferrer cracked the top 100 in 2003, the top 50 in 2004, and the top 20 in 2005. Finally, he made his top 10 debut in 2006, continuing his rise in 2007 when he finished the year ranked No. 5 in the world.

His highest year-end ranking would come in 2013 when he closed out the year as the No. 3 player in the world, a distinguishable feat in the era of the dominance of the Big Four. He reached his peak that season, advancing to his first and only Grand Slam final at the French Open before falling to countryman and good friend Rafael Nadal.

Competing against the Big Four for most of his career, Ferrer is among the handful of players who are regarded as the greatest never to have won a Grand Slam. He holds the record, in fact, for the most ATP tour wins without a Grand Slam title.

That is all in the rear-view mirror now, though, as the Valencia native continues his journey to the Madrid Masters — his final tournament, he says. And in his 16th and final appearance at the Miami Open, an event known for its passionate Latin and Spanish-speaking fan base, Ferrer was soaking it all in.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” he expressed, looking up at the fans chanting his name. “It’s Miami, a lot of people have supported me all these years. For me, it’s a great experience to play in this new stadium.”

Ferrer moves onto a second round matchup with No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev — a rematch of their three-setter here last year, in which Zverev prevailed 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Get your tickets to see him in action tomorrow here!