World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and fellow Spaniard David Ferrer will reprise last year’s final when they meet for the championship tomorrow at the Barcelona Open.
Nadal manhandled No. 8-ranked Nikolay Davydenko 6-3, 6-2 in the first semifinal, but Ferrer had a decidedly more difficult time, forced to come from a set down to beat No. 5 seed Fernando “Gonzo” Gonzalez 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5).
Nadal is looking for a fifth straight Barcelona Open title. Nadal’s only loss in Barcelona came in 2003 when he made his tournament debut at the age of 16.
The world no. 1-ranked Spaniard has won his past 24 matches on clay, and is 141-4 on clay since 2005. Last week Nadal raised the Masters Monte Carlo title in his first claycourt appearance of the year.
Sunday’s final will be the fourth all-Spanish championship match in the last five years.
While Nadal eased into the final against a Russian opponent who couldn’t consistently hurt him, Ferrer found himself on the punishing end of the forehand of the Chilean Gonzalez. As Gonzalez’s power and precision fell off, Ferrer broke serve twice in the second set and raced to a 5-2 lead in the third before holding off the Chilean in the tiebreak in the end.
“It was a crazy match that could have gone either way,” Ferrer told reporters. “When he double faulted, I saw a light. I played well, very aggressive, although I need to serve a bit better. I’m happy with my form and to have played well here. I love this tournament and its history.”
Gonzalez double faulted at 5-5 in the tiebreak before netting a forehand to hand Ferrer the win in an anti-climax.
Davydenko entered his semifinal with Nadal, half-joking that he didn’t have a chance, but truth be told there are few players who enter a claycourt match against Nadal with the belief they have a chance to shake hands as the victor.
“Rafa is the world No. 1 and the best on clay, it’s very difficult to beat him,” Ferrer said. “I’ll try to play good tennis, if not I’m dead, but I’m not thinking about whether or not I’ll beat him, I go on the court to play as well as possible.”
Ferrer lost to Nadal in three sets in last year’s final. His only claycourt win over Nadal came in their very first meeting in Stuttgart in 2004.
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