There may appear more chance of Parisians skipping lunch today than David Ferrer winning the French Open, but one man not writing off the Spaniard is his opponent.
Rafael Nadal has played 59 matches at Roland Garros and won 58 of them. Victory today would give him an unprecedented eighth title in Paris and more match wins than any other male player. Ferrer, in contrast, is playing in his first grand slam final having beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Friday in his sixth semi-final.
He has won only one of his last 16 matches against Nadal, and that was when his opponent was hurt, while in the semi-finals here last year Ferrer won just five games. The 31-year-old has at least done better in their last two meetings, winning a set in Madrid and Rome last month. Nadal believes his friend’s achievement is not before time, comparing it to Andy Murray breaking his grand slam duck by winning the US Open last year.
“Tennis is a fair sport, and if somebody deserves to win titles, to be in the finals of a grand slam, it’s David,” said Nadal. “It’s like Andy at the US Open. He deserved to be the winner of a grand slam because he was in that position to be the winner a lot of times. “The person who doesn’t respect David as one of the greatest players of the world — not for one year, for a long time — doesn’t know anything about tennis.”
The mantra of Nadal’s lifelong coach, his uncle Toni Nadal, has always been that his nephew should never assume he is superior to anyone, so it is not a surprise to hear him talking up an opponent. But there is no doubt the top four men respect Ferrer enormously, and it is the underdog who has reached the final without dropping a set. “I don’t feel favourite,” said Nadal. “I feel that I am a finalist. I arrived in the final playing well. I improved a little bit in every match during the tournament.
“So that’s important, to arrive to the final with the right feelings. But he didn’t lose 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. I’m going to try tomorrow. “Tomorrow will be a great day for the sport in Spain. It’s very difficult to make that happen, two Spanish players in the finals of a grand slam.”
Friday’s classic against Djokovic, which Nadal eventually won 9-7 in the fifth after four hours and 37 minutes, was the first five-set match the Spaniard has played since Wimbledon last year. The knee problems that caused him to miss seven months after the defeat by Lukas Rosol at the All England Club have not completely gone away, but Nadal is happy with how he has recovered from Friday’s match.
Head to head
Rafael Nadal 19
David ferrer 04