Nadal d. Ferrer, 6-2 6-2 6-1
Although Ferrer put up a strong and very convincing fight against Nadal in Barcelona, where he lost 6-7(1) 5-7, and a slightly less convincing one fight in Rome (where he lost 6-7(6) 0-6), this Roland Garros semifinal was a quick, decisive rout in which Ferrer won a total of five games.
Nadal’s first game on serve was a bit nervy, but Ferrer also went for too much on two inside-out forehands, and Nadal held serve without facing breakpoint.
When the defending champion serving at 1*-2, Ferrer had two chances to take his serve. Once again, Nadal stepped up his aggressive play to save both of them. Ferrer missed what was his best chance to alter the outcome of the first set. Those two break opportunites were the only ones Ferrer had during the match.
From early on, Ferrer’s game plan was evident. He constantly targeted Nadal’s backhand, which was standing up to the test. Eventually, Nadal out-strategized Ferrer and ran around his backhand to hit a forehand winner that set him up with two breakpoints of his own. Off an unforced error from Ferrer, Nadal broke serve to go up 3*-2.
From this point, it was clear that Nadal had settled into the match and he was showing fine volleying skills at the net, while he hit winners off his forehand side. He went up a double break and cleanly served out the first set, 6-2.
Fortunately, for those seeking a more competitive match, Ferrer seemed to regroup and play with more conviction at the start of the second set. He was timing his forehand better, but Nadal was more than ready to meet this rise in his opponent’s level.
In response to a dropshot from Ferrer, Nadal scrambled to the net and stumbled, landing on his bottom. Quite amazingly, Nadal still reached the ball and won the point. It was the point of the match and a fine display of Nadal’s well-known ability to defend. Sadly for Ferrer, the point was also a short synopsis of this semifinal. Even when Ferrer hit with renewed conviction to break down Nadal’s game bit by bit, he could not win the points that mattered.
Nadal went up a double break in the second set, only for the match to be suspended due to a rain at 4*-1. For all the talk about strategies that can be rehashed between players and coaches in the locker room during a rain delay, this one did nothing to change the dynamic between the two players.
Once play resumed, at 2*-5, Nadal ran what felt like hundreds of meters and put an exclamation mark on the point with an incredible forehand down the line, to pass a stranded Ferrer, and force a double set point. In no time, Nadal took the second set 6-2.
While there will be a fair number of fans who will bemoan the lack of suspense in the match’s outcome, it would be unfair to criticize the effort Ferrer put into the match. Ferrer did not make too many mistakes, while Nadal would defy simple expectations by managing to run down balls that many other players would not be able to reach. In that sense, it seems only inevitable that Ferrer would look slightly worse for wear by the third set—especially after Nadal hit yet another one of his famous forehand down the line passes at 3*-1 on his serve in the third set. In the next game, Ferrer double-faulted to hand the double break to Nadal, and the Spaniard served out the match with little trouble.
Overall, Nadal’s winner-to-unforced-error count was 26-17 and Ferrer’s was 17-35. Nadal won 13/13 on his points at the net, which is an intimidating stat for his opponent in the final, given the accompanying strength of Nadal’s baseline game. All told, in his career, Nadal has now won 153 of the 166 sets he has played at Roland Garros. He will be in impressive form ahead of the final, where he faces the winner of the marquee Federer and Djokovic match.