David Ferrer may be the fifth best tennis player on the planet but he doesn't feel a record belongs to him - just yet.
Today, the three-time champion is favoured to take care of German second seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, and move one step closer to achieving that feat in the Heineken Open final.
Australian legend Roy Emerson was the last player - 46 years ago - to win four titles in Auckland and, while there's no sense of a cakewalk, it's hard to see Kohlschreiber stopping Ferrer equalling the former 12-time Grand Slam winner.
"It's important, of course, because it's going to be a record, and I don't have any records in my career . . . I am not Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer," said the top seed, who won seven singles titles, more than any other player last year.
That may be true, but this tournament is Ferrer's home. Here, he commands Nadal and Federer-like status. A fourth title would only increase his legacy, stature and leave the door ajar to place his name above all others next year.
"I am important in my house," Ferrer said. "I like this tournament a lot. I like a lot these people. They have supported me all the years I came here."
Ferrer's semi-final against Gael Monfils was a flop. The Frenchman proved he is a popular enigma. Brilliant one minute, absent the next. After being injured early, he never recovered, losing 6-1 6-2 in an anticlimactic 48 minutes.
After turning it on to dispatch third seed Tommy Haas on Thursday night, Monfils appeared disinterested yesterday. Physically, the entertaining and erratic wildcard wasn't up to it, though this is the start of his comeback trail.
"Yeah but that is not my problem," Ferrer said of Monfils' underwhelming interest. "You'll have to ask him. It was a surprise to win 6-1 6-2. For me it's better to have won in two sets and rest for tomorrow's final."
The demolition served to highlight Ferrer's unrelenting focus. No matter who is across the other side of the net, or how they perform, he remains on task.
If there is one morsel that suggests Kohlschreiber, who exposed big-serving American Sam Querrey's flaws in his straight sets semi-final win, might be able to cause a monumental upset it's that five years ago, when he won the title in Auckland, the world No 20 beat another Spaniard, Juan Carlos Ferraro.
"It was my second title. It was very special," Kohlschreiber recalled.
"Everything changes a little bit, you get older. The only thing that is the same is I play another Spanish guy in the final. Hopefully, it brings me luck."
History alone suggests Kohlschreiber is battling the odds. In nine previous meetings he's beaten Ferrer just three times. In Auckland, he lost on both times - in three sets in the 2011 quarter-finals and a walkover in '09.
"It's going to be the toughest for the week," Kohlschreiber said. "He's an unbelievable player. He had a huge season last year. For sure he's the favourite. I lost a couple of times to him already; I had a couple of victories. I think I get my chances. I really like the place here. I hope I can perform really well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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