There was no fairytale farewell from the ASB Classic for David Ferrer. In fact, it was anything but a fairytale.
However, the outgoing Spanish veteran refused to let his heartbreaking exit in his final appearance in Auckland tarnish his memories of the tournament.
Ferrer’s bid for a record fifth Classic crown came to an end when he suffered a calf injury in just the third game of his second round match against compatriot and fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta.
THANK YOU DAVID!
Due to injury, David Ferrer has withdrawn from the 2019 ASB Classic. We wish him the best of luck for the rest of the season and in retirement 💛
— ASB Classic (@ASB_Classic) January 9, 2019
“I’m disappointed I can’t finish my last match here in Auckland. But anyway, I am positive because I played here 14 years, I have very good memories and the people supported me a lot,” Ferrer said.
“Now I’m disappointed but I’m sure that tomorrow, next week, I will appreciate everything the people did for me [over] these years.”
Ferrer won his maiden Auckland title in 2007 before claiming three-straight between 2011-2013 and it was a cruel way to go for a player who has done so much to put the Classic on the map.
With the match on serve at 1-1 in the first set, the 36-year-old veteran, who is on his farewell tour, pulled up lame after winning a point off his forehand.
Despite immediately sensing the injury was serious, he showed how much the event meant to him by bravely trying to battle on after the medical timeout, only to last just three more points.
In a great show of sportsmanship, he was consoled by his “good friend” Carreno Busta, who will meet German Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarterfinals.
“I tried because it’s a very important tournament for me, it’s the last one that I will play. I tried everything but I [couldn’t go on],” Ferrer added.
“It’s strange because last week I played long matches and my fitness was good. Yesterday I also played really good and I was playing with confidence against Pablo. Sometimes it’s only bad luck.”
— Chris Chang (@ChrisChang) January 9, 2019
Ferrer first came to Auckland in 2003 and has been a crowd favourite every year since.
Before leaving centre court, he was honoured in a special presentation and was given a guard of honour by fans and staff as he left the ASB Tennis Centre.
“The ceremony was very impressive, very emotional,” Ferrer said. “I thought that this is my best trophy, that the people enjoy watching me play tennis. They appreciate me a lot and I will have them in my heart.”
The Classic is one of just six tournaments Ferrer is playing before retiring at the end of the year.
Often considered one of the unluckiest players not to win a Grand Slam, the former world No 3 arrived in Auckland ranked 124th and was granted a wildcard by tournament director Karl Budge.
But he always saved his best tennis for Stanley Street, missing the quarterfinals just twice in his previous 13 appearances.
He opened his latest campaign with a straight sets win over Robin Haase. And with top seed John Isner knocked out by Taylor Fritz earlier on Wednesday, his side of the draw had opened up for one last memorable run in the City of Sails.
However, it was not meant to be and Ferrer finished his career at the Classic with an overall record of 32-10. His highest ever finish in Grand Slams was runner up in the 2013 French Open, losing to Rafael Nadal.