By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) - He turned up 10 minutes late on court and took an age to find his rhythm, but metronomic Spaniard David Ferrer showed there are few tougher opponents as he ground down Ivan Dodig in four sets to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Monday.
Fourth seed Ferrer was five minutes away from defaulting when he finally emerged on to the sun-baked Court Two, wandering to his chair without a nod of apology to the Croat he had kept waiting.
There was nothing nonchalant about his tennis, however, and after a nip and tuck opening he secured a 6-7(3) 7-6(6) 6-1 6-1 victory to set up a last-eight clash with Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.
Despite reaching the French Open final just weeks ago, Ferrer has flown largely under the radar at Wimbledon, with his unflashy and often attritional victories not attracting the limelight.
Yet he is now the third highest seed left in the men's draw, behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and has tailored his game to fit the grasscourt grand slam.
Forged on the Spanish clay, Ferrer is used to wearing down opponents by scurrying tirelessly across the baseline.
Against the 49th-ranked Dodig, he came to the net 46 times and won the point on the majority of occasions.
"I know on the grass courts I have to finish the points at the net, and the volley is a very important shot on these type of courts," he said.
"I'm trying to play aggressively. I need to serve better than on other courts.
"Every match I am playing better and with more confidence."
If Ferrer was slow to arrive on court, he took even longer to impose himself on the match, losing a 56-minute first set on a tiebreak.
Goran Ivanisevic took a seat in the stands before the start of the second set and was treated by his countryman to a serving masterclass the former Wimbledon winner would have been proud of.
Ferrer did not get a point on the Dodig serve for four consecutive games, but came on strong when it mattered by winning the second tiebreak to restore parity.
The consistent Dodig serve disintegrated as the match wore on and he was broken three times in the third set and twice in the fourth.
Ferrer will next face eighth-seeded Del Potro who beat Italian Andreas Seppi in straight sets.
The Spaniard holds a 6-2 winning record against Del Potro, including a straight-sets victory in the last 16 at Wimbledon 12 months ago.
He is, nonetheless, wary about the former U.S. Open champions' grasscourt game.
"I need to play my best tennis to beat Del Potro," he said.
"On a grass court I think it is more difficult. He plays better than me on grass. Last year I beat him, but I think then I played my best match on a grass court."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)