Some bookmakers have him at 10-1 on to beat David Ferrer in this afternoon's French Open final, but Rafael Nadal will go into the match with the same attitude he adopts every time he steps on to a court. Even though he has beaten his fellow Spaniard in 15 of their last 16 meetings and has lost only one of his previous 59 matches here at Roland Garros, the king of clay will be taking nothing for granted against an opponent playing in his first Grand Slam final.
"I don't feel the favourite," Nadal said yesterday as he looked ahead to his chance to make history as the only player ever to win the same Grand Slam title eight times. "I feel that I am a finalist. I've arrived at the final playing well. I improved a little bit in every match during the tournament.
"That's important, to arrive in the final with the right feelings. But he hasn't lost a set during the whole tournament. He's a player who brings you to the limit. He's a player who will get you into big, big trouble if you are not playing perfectly.
"It will be a great day for the sport in Spain. For two Spanish players to play in a Grand Slam final is a very difficult thing to make happen. It's fantastic news for us. David is playing great. I played against him a lot of times, but the last two times, in Madrid and Rome, it was close. I know tomorrow will be a very difficult match."
The one glimmer of hope for 31-year-old Ferrer, who is the first 30-something to reach the final here since Andres Gomez won the title in 1990, might be the fact that his fellow countryman has had the more difficult passage to the final.
Nadal has been on court for a total of nearly 17 hours in his six matches, including more than four and a half hours in his epic semi-final against Novak Djokovic on Friday. Ferrer, remarkably, has needed less than 11 hours to win his matches and disposed of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in only two hours to end his run of five successive defeats in Grand Slam semi-finals.
An indication of the fatigue Nadal is feeling came with the announcement that he has withdrawn from this week's grass-court tournament in Halle, his only warm-up event for Wimbledon, which starts in 15 days. Nadal, who refused to discuss his reasons for pulling out, admitted he felt "a little bit tired, but nothing dramatic".
The world No 4 still found the time and energy to practise hard for an hour yesterday. "I really wanted to get on the court today because the tournament is not over," he said. "I need to be 100 per cent ready, so I practised as I usually do, exactly the same thing. I was not more relaxed. Once the tournament is over I can relax."
Rain is forecast for this afternoon. When it became cold and damp during last year's final Nadal looked vulnerable. Djokovic won eight games in a row before play was suspended and it was only when the sun shone on the resumption the following day that he resumed control.
Ferrer, however, is likely to need much more than a rain shower or two if he is to stop Nadal taking the all-time record for the most match victories at Roland Garros, which he currently shares with Guillermo Vilas and Roger Federer. The 27-year-old is also bidding to become the second youngest man in history – after Federer – to win 12 Grand Slam titles.
It would take a brave, if not foolish, man to bet against him.Reuse content