Two Spaniards, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer have reached the men’s French Open final, and one of them has yet to lose a set. Would you believe the one who hasn’t lost that set is not Nadal but rather Ferrer? It’s true.
But that’s a note I don’t think matters much here in this one. Sure, Ferrer is playing some really good tennis. He got a great draw early on then pounded a completely MIA (missing in action) JW Tsonga to finally arrive at his first career Grand Slam final at age 31. After all the years of playing second fiddle, it’s nice to see David get rewarded.
It would be a crime if players like Martin Verkerk, Alberto Berasategui, Mariano Puerta, Andrei Medevedev, etc, made the French Open final but never Ferrer.
Now Ferrer gets his chance, and perhaps his only chance, to become one of the elite in tennis: A Grand Slam champion. Unfortunately he’ll have to go against his countryman and the one true King of Clay, Rafael Nadal.
Rafa, though, hasn’t been at full Rafa strength this event. But even at 90% he’s still better than the field.
In a pulse-pounding semifinal thriller yesterday, he dug deep to overcome a break to the bad in the fifth to beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. And he beat a Djokovic who had immense motivation, had just stunned him in Monte Carlo, and even he couldn’t put Nadal away. Not even with that break lead in the fifth – though it’s baffling to me why serving at 7-8 Novak had to go on that extensive tirade at such a crucial moment; that lapse proved to be the Serb’s downfall.
But back to the final.
Rafa has only lost once on the French Open courts – that to Robin Soderling – and no one has really come close to beating him in any of his previous seven finals. Still, Rafa remains his usual humble self.
“I don’t feel [like the] favorite,” said Nadal. “I feel that I am [a] finalist.
“Tomorrow will be a great day for the sport in Spain. It is very difficult to have Spanish players in the final of a Grand Slam.”
In this first Spanish French final since 2002, Rafa has beaten Ferrer 19 of 23 times, winning all 16 straight meetings on clay, the favorite choice of both players. Ferrer beat him at the Australian a few years ago when Nadal was injured early. He also beat him at the 2007 US Open where the quicker courts helped the weaker Ferrer power winners past Nadal who still wasn’t season on the hardcourts.
“I have arrived to the final playing well,” Nadal said. “I have improved a little bit in every match during the tournament.
“But [David] hasn’t lost a set during the whole tournament, so he’s a player that brings you to the limit. He’s a player that if you are not playing perfect you will be in big, big trouble.”
On the slower clay, hitting winners against Ferrer becomes that much tougher. And to me that’s the difference because Rafa simple does everything better than David. So unless Rafa has an off day, which is entirely possible, it’s going to be extremely tough for Ferrer to win three sets.
“I know he’s the favorite, but I am going to be focused every point. I will try to do my best,” Ferrer said. “I am not thinking about Rafael, [if] he’s better than me or not. I will try to fight a lot and to play very good match. After that, the match [is going to] depend on a lot of things.”
Ferrer did play Nadal tough in Madrid and at Rome last month, getting a set in both and he probably should have at least had a match point in that tight match in Spain. Rafa, though, has only lost once at the French and unlike Madrid and Rome, he’s going to be extra focused on winning his snowman – and 8th French Open.
I still feel Ferrer keeps it close enough for a set, but in the end the match is on Rafa’s racquet and the King of Clay is remains the King of Clay. He gets his snowman.
The pick: Nadal in four
NBC will have live coverage from 9am ET. Rumor has it rain could again be an issue on this final Sunday. Let’s hope not!
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