It’s hard to imagine a player, whose coach once locked him in a storage cupboard for lack of effort, could rise to have among the game’s most revered work ethics; a player who reaches his first Grand Slam tournament final at 31 and finishes his 14th season on tour in the top three for the first time.
David Ferrer has made it his mission to improve every year since turning professional in 2000.
At 175cm (5ft 9in), the Valencia native is the shortest player in the top 50, but what he lacks in height and natural shot-making ability he makes up for with supreme fitness and determination.
He reached nine finals last season, defending titles in Auckland and Buenos Aires before falling in his next seven.
The Spanish terrier, though, was a model of consistency, reaching his eighth straight Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal at the US Open. Novak Djokovic was the only player to reach the quarterfinals or better at each slam for the past two years.
Having cracked the 500-club – those to have won more than 500 matches on tour – only Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have won more than Ferrer among active players.
American Eddie Dibbs, a former world No.5 in 1978, is the only player on record to have won more matches (584) while never having won a Grand Slam title.
For Ferrer, he came within a match of breaking his hoodoo at Roland Garros in 2013.
It was there he reached his first Grand Slam title decider without the loss of a set, including a surprisingly one-sided demolition of home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals.
At 31 years and 68 days old, he became the first player aged 30 or more to reach the French final since Ecuador’s Andreas Gomez won in 1990.
He would come up short in straight sets to Nadal. Yet in much the same way Stanislas Wawrinka is comfortable being consigned to Roger Federer’s Swiss shadow, Ferrer shares the same attitude to being Nadal’s Spanish deputy.
"Rafael, Novak (Djokovic) and Andy (Murray), they are better than the other ones. They have one more arm and one weapon more than the others," Ferrer said after the Roland Garros final. "Of course I am in a good moment and I'm in the top 10 and this season I've been very consistent, very regular, but I think to win the big tournaments now is more difficult than when I was 27 or 28 years old.”
A return to Paris on an indoor hardcourt proved a happier hunting ground for the Spaniard later in the year. He snapped a nine-match losing streak to his countryman and beat the world No.1 for just the fifth time in 26 attempts in the semifinals of his Paris Masters 1000 defence in November; eventually coming up short in the final against Djokovic.
Ferrer suggested the straight-sets result over Nadal was his best match of the season, however it was not an omen for the World Tour Finals, where, having qualified for the fourth year in a row, he went 0-3 in round robin play, including a loss to his countryman.
When Nadal returned to Roland Garros seeded outside the top four, Ferrer was almost apologising for being ranked higher and was quick to point out it was only due to Nadal missing so many tournaments due to injury.
He finished the year, though, with a newfound belief he belonged.
"The tennis is justice," he said. "I know it's difficult to be top 10 or to be No.3 in the world. I am lucky because Andy Murray was injured for three or four months, but I had a very good year.
"I finished the year No.3 because I deserved it. I think I deserve to be No.3 in the world."
A two-time semifinalist in Melbourne, including last year where he lost to eventual champion Djokovic, Ferrer will enter Australian Open 2014 with his highest Grand Slam seeding.
He arrives with a new coach, Jose Altur, in place of his long-term coach of 15 years, Javier Piles – the same coach who locked him in the cupboard for lack of effort.
That’s one battle you can be sure Altur won’t have to worry about.
Ferrer will play his third round round match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the second match of the day session at Rod Laver Arena today, .