French Open Tennis 2013 Final: Making the Case for Both Nadal and Ferrer

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French Open Tennis 2013 Final: Making the Case for Both Nadal and Ferrer
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The 2013 French Open men's championship will feature two Spanish clay-court stars, but only one past winner in seven-time tournament champion Rafael Nadal (via Roland Garros):

Rafa will be the overwhelming favorite when he steps onto Court Philippe Chatrier for Sunday's title clash with Ferrer. The 27-year-old is oozing with confidence following an incredible, five-set win over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals on Friday.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Ferrer is in uncharted territory playing in his first-ever Grand Slam final. But while Ferrer is a stranger to the final Sunday at Roland Garros, he is a threat considering he knows both Rafa and clay extremely well.

Here we'll take a look at what each player has going for them heading into Sunday's showdown.

 

The Case for Rafael Nadal

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

Nadal has played 59 career singles matches on the red clay of Paris, winning 58 and dropping just one match, a four-set loss to Robin Soderling way back in 2009.

Rafa has won 27 straight matches at the French Open since that defeat four years ago. Impressive doesn't even begin to describe that level of dominance. Nadal's stranglehold on Roland Garros has never before been seen.

Credit: Instragram.com/RafaelNadalOfficial

In terms of his game, what sets Nadal apart from the rest is his ability to apply wicked power and topspin to his lefty forehands. When the conditions are right, and the ball is bouncing high, Rafa can easily wear down lesser-fit players. 

Like Djokovic, Ferrer isn't going to wilt under the pressure of Nadal's booming shots on Sunday. But he'll have to dig deep in order to withstand Rafa's blows over the course of three-to-five sets of tennis.

The numbers don't lie. Nadal owns Roland Garros, and has taken out Ferrer twice before at the French Open, including last year when he won in straight sets in the semifinals.

 

The Case for David Ferrer

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Sure, the two biggest knocks against Ferrer on Sunday are obvious: The fact that he's never played in a Slam final before and that he's set to go up against the greatest clay-court player of all time in Nadal.

But before you count Ferrer out, consider what he's been able to do through the first six rounds at Roland Garros this summer.

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Not only has the 31-year-old Spaniard won 18-of-18 sets, but he's also playing phenomenal tennis in the return game, having won 42 total return games since the start of the tournament. Nadal has won just 35 total to this point.

In his straight-sets semifinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Ferrer broke his opponent six times and won a remarkable 48 percent of his receiving points. What makes Ferrer such a strong returner is his fitness and ability to hit clean, consistent ground strokes.

If he can fight off Nadal's forehand on Sunday, and force the defending champion into some uncharacteristic errors, there's no reason to believe this match won't go the distance. After all, Ferrer has pushed Rafa to three sets in each of their past two meetings, both of which were on clay in Madrid and Rome (via Roland Garros):

There isn't a hotter returner in the game right now than Ferrer, and if he continues to play as a human wall this weekend, Nadal will be in danger of having to hand over his crown.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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