Three months ago it would have been difficult to picture Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andy Murray's quarter-final opponent here this afternoon, as Rafael Nadal's predecessor as the best player in Spain. The 29-year-old had not won a title for six years and had slipped so far down the world rankings – to No 115 – that he did not make the initial entry list for Wimbledon.
The All England Club, nevertheless, granted the 2003 French Open champion a wild card and Ferrero has responded with his best ever grass-court season. Having reached the semi-finals at Queen's Club last month, when he lost to Murray, the world No 70 has matched his best performance here in reaching the last eight.
Ferrero is the last wild card to make such progress here since Goran Ivanisevic, who went on to win the title in 2001. "I would like to repeat what he did, but of course it's a little bit difficult to say yet," Ferrero said. "But I'm pretty happy about the wild card and happy about the game that I'm playing."
He added: "I'm not going to be short of experience. Murray will have everyone supporting him, but I have been around long enough to know how to focus on my own game."
Ferrero became world No 1 in September 2003, having followed up his French Open triumph by reaching the final of the US Open, where he lost to Andy Roddick. He had been in the world's top 100 for nearly 10 years until he dropped out in March this year, after which he started to climb back by winning a clay-court event in Casablanca.
While clay has always brought the best out of him – all but three of his 12 titles have been won on the surface – Ferrero has proved he can play on grass, even if he rarely strays from the baseline. Two years ago he was the only player other than Nadal to take a set off Roger Federer here, losing to the Swiss in four sets in the quarter-finals.
The Spaniard has beaten four higher-ranked players to reach the quarter-finals this year – Mikhail Youzhny (world No 44), Fabrice Santoro (37), Fernando Gonzalez (10) and Gilles Simon (7) – and believes his form is better than when he lost to Murray at Queen's.
"Having played that match against him I also feel I learned something," he said. "I will have to be aggressive all the time, because he likes to play at one level and then change the rhythm very quickly. It's very difficult to play against him because of this. I will try to be focused on my return, because his serve has been very, very big. If I want to win of course it's going to be very difficult. He's at home, he wants to win and everybody wants him to win."
Ferrero is a friend of the golfer Sergio Garcia and, like Nadal, supports Real Madrid. He has also become something of an entrepreneur. Eight years ago he launched a tennis academy in his home town of Villena, Alicante, and two years ago he opened Hotel Ferrero, with 12 luxury suites, in a refurbished cottage in Bocairente, 50 minutes south of Valencia.