A tearful David Ferrer bid goodbye to Barcelona following his 15th appearance at the ‘Trofeo Conde de Godo’ ATP 500 event having declared last year that he would be retiring at the Madrid Masters in two weeks.
I gave everything I had," Ferrer said. "I'm very happy, it's a dream come true to play one of my last matches on this court David Ferrer
The 37-year-old seemed in good form having beaten Mischa Zverev and Lucas Pouille to make the last 16 and face his compatriot, the defending champion en route on what he hopes will be a 12th title next Sunday. Four of those wins came at the expense of his friend in finals.
Friendship and sentiment were set aside as Nadal swept past his fellow Davis Cup player in an hour and 56-minutes, 6-3 6-3 in a rain interrupted match, and immediately joined in with the crowd to give Ferrer a standing ovation, describing his career as a “pleasure to watch”.
An emotional Ferrer raised his arms in thanks and having saluted the crowd, placed his headband on the service line before striding off into the ‘sunset’.
“David is not retiring because of his level but it has been a complicated year and a half for him with injuries,” Nadal explained later following their 32nd encounter in what was the Mallorcan’s 26th win .
“His level this year has still been very high and for all these years he’s been fighting hard and giving us pleasure watching him. We are all grateful to him.”
Ferrer reached a career-high ranking of number three in the world in 2013, the same year he went closest to winning a Grand Slam too, undone by Nadal again in the French Open final.
“I gave everything I had,” Ferrer said. “I’m very happy, it’s a dream come true to play one of my last matches on this court.”
Meanwhile Nadal, whose form was being questioned these last two week, gave a much stronger performance, securing his victory on his fourth match point; a victory which was more like that which had seen him play through 15 consecutive matches in Barcelona without conceding a set — until last Wednesday, when Leonardo Mayer broke that run.
“I had to majorly improve,” Nadal added. “I need to step up, play with more energy and a different attitude.”
Nadal will now face Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, who knocked out fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, before a potential semi-final meeting with Dominic Thiem, whom he beat in the French Open final last year or Guido Pella, the Argentine who nearly upset him in the quarter-finals of Monte Carlo.
Also through is the fourth seeded Kei Nishikori who delivered a masterclass as he also wept past his opponent, the much heralded Canadian teenager, Felix Auger-Alissime 6-1 6-3.
The seventh-ranked Japanese star broke the youngster, ranked 31, in the opening game of the match and followed that up in fifth and seventh game t take the set.
It wasn’t until late in the second set that Auger-Aliassime started to put up a fight earning himself five break points before Nishikori held.
The 18-year-old finally broke, to love, in the seventh game but Nishikori broke straight back and served out to win the match.
In the other matches, seventh seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev beat American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3 6-2, and Dominic Thiem seeded three defeated Jaume Munar 7-5 6-1
Two Lucky Losers have also made it through to the last eight, namely Caballes Baenes who ousted Cristian Garin 6-4 7-6(2) and Nicolas Jarry added the 13th seeded Grigor Dimitrov to his list of victims 2-6 6-4 7-6(2).