Paris: David Ferrer, nicknamed the wall, proved an impenetrable barrier for Andy Murray whose consistency deserted him during a four-set quarter-final defeat at the French Open on Wednesday. The Spaniard deflected everything the Scot could throw at him, before his metronomic reliability finally ground his opponent down in a 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-2 victory.
"I played the important moments better," was Ferrer's simple explanation for his advance to the final four where he faces the seemingly untouchable Rafa Nadal. It will be the 30-year-old Ferrer's first appearance in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, which he described as a "big relief" after years of being tipped for success in Paris.
His never-say-die attitude and ability to swiftly turn defence into attack means his game is ideally suited to the Parisian red dust. It was unfortunate for Murray that a rain delay seemed to turn the match back in the Spaniard's favour just when he seemed to have gained some momentum, having clawed his way back to one set all.
Not that Murray offered this as an excuse. "It was actually probably better conditions to play in after we came back," he said. "After the rain delay there wasn't as much wind and the sun was out a little bit."
Murray's frustration on court was evident from the running commentary he offered as the errors mounted up, with his forehand in particular letting him down. That frustration was borne out of a realisation that Ferrer had all the answers to whatever gameplan he had coming into the match.
The Spaniard rarely missed with a hittable return and, whenever Murray tried to vary his approach with a drop shot or eager charge to the net, his efforts were swatted away.
Ferrer was not invulnerable and Murray broke his serve five times. On each of those occasions, however, Ferrer broke straight back.
The prize for the victor is a semi-final clash with compatriot and six-times champion Nadal, who continued his unblemished run to the last four with yet another straight sets victory.
"His serve is huge; he's improved on all his shots," Ferrer said of his friend and next opponent. He's left-handed, so it's very difficult to return his serves and Rafa knows it."