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David Ferrer adds to the list of memorable 12-5 March upsets

Matt Zemek



Geoff Burke -- USA TODAY Sports

David Ferrer might not have filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket, but he definitely busted a few on Thursday night in Miami.

It is March, which means I am covering the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament as a paid writing job for multiple publications. For this brief period of time — which does not apply to tournaments other than Indian Wells or Miami — I am not able to watch quite as much tennis as I would like, though next week (the second week of Miami), I will be able to watch a fair amount of tennis except on Thursday night, March 28.

My immersion in “March Madness” means that at this very moment, I am focused on something called a “12-5 upset.” Americans know exactly what this means, but for international readers who don’t, I will offer a very quick explanation.

You might know that I favor the use of “NCAA-style seeding” at majors to eliminate the randomness of draws. (The NCAA seeding system would be used in tandem with grass, clay, or hardcourt-specific rankings formulas to provide diversity of seeds at the four majors.) An NCAA seeding system — spread across four regions (four quarters of a draw if compared to tennis) — involves top versus bottom seeds and middle seeds versus middle seeds.

1 plays 16 at the ends of a bracket, while 8 plays 9 as the middle seeds in a bracket.

All these seeding combinations include a matchup between a 5 seed and a 12 seed. (If you have 16 teams in a section of a draw, the seed totals for the initial matchups must all equal 17 — that’s an easy way of understanding an NCAA Tournament’s regional bracket.)

The matchup between a 5 seed and a 12 seed is the matchup where the lower seed (the 12) enjoys a noticeably larger degree of success compared to the other higher seeds.

A No. 1 seed has lost only once in 40 years of NCAA Tournament history. A No. 2 seed has lost several times. No. 3 seeds have lost more than the No. 2 seeds have lost, and the No. 4 seeds have lost more than the No. 3 seeds… but only when you get to the 5-versus-12 matchup does the balance of power become especially even. No. 12 seeds have played close to .500 against No. 5 seeds in recent years, and occasionally, they win a majority of the time.

Thursday, a 12 seed beat a 5 seed… and in a blowout: Murray State beat Marquette by 19 points, 83-64.

Again, I don’t know if David Ferrer filled out a bracket. Spain takes its basketball seriously, and Ferrer is good friends with future Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Pau Gasol, but I don’t know if Ferru follows American college basketball.

Little did Ferrer know that he also pulled a 12-5 upset against Sam Querrey.

Wait — Ferrer wasn’t a 12 seed. He wasn’t any kind of seed at all. Querrey sure wasn’t a 5 seed. He also wasn’t a seeded player.

No, this wasn’t a 12-5 upset based on seeds. It was a 12-5 upset on the scoreboard: Ferrer d. Querrey, 6-3, 6-2.

12 games to 5.


Now that you know what this particular 12-5 upset means, let’s discuss its significance:

Very simply, David Ferrer, as he prepares to ride into the sunset of his tennis career, can still play ball. He can still lock in on returns and make a good server look bad. Ferrer’s skills and capacities have obviously eroded, but they haven’t vanished. There is still the fighting spirit, of course — that has never left — but there is also enough game, enough quality, in Ferru to create more meaningful moments and show that this victory lap is not merely a collection of kind words.

It is still a serious and professional pursuit of match victories in a career which has accumulated over 725 of them.

It is easy — and appropriate — to laud a fighting spirit. It is exponentially more impressive when a fighter lands punches and leaves the boxing ring with his hands raised in victory.

David Ferrer can still do it — not as often as he used to, but enough to make all of us smile during March Madness.

A 12-5 upset rarely tasted this good. ONIONS WITH PAELLA FOR EVERYONE!

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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