French Open 2013: Breaking Down Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer's Keys to Victory

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2013

June 8, 2012; Paris, FRANCE; Rafael Nadal (ESP), right, greets David Ferrer (ESP) in their semifinal match on day 13 of the 2012 French Open. Nadal won 6-2 6-2 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

When Rafael Nadal squares off against David Ferrer in the men’s final of the 2013 French Open, the two Spaniards will battle in one of the fiercest matchups imaginable on the red clay of Roland Garros.

Not only will this be Nadal’s chance to add an eighth title at this tournament to his collection and Ferrer’s first chance at a Grand Slam championship, but this will also be the first time two Spanish tennis players will meet in a French Open final since 2002 (h/t Roland Garros Twitter account):

There is so much on the line when these men meet Sunday on Court Philippe Chatrier, but the star that handles the pressure of the situation best and plays his style with an unwavering tempo and confidence will win this matchup.

On paper, it’s clear that the seven-time French Open champion has the edge, but Ferrer is a workhorse on the court; a victory for Nadal won’t be as easy as many believe.


Rafael Nadal Will Lean on Roland Garros Experience

Since first competing at the French Open in 2005, Rafael Nadal has utterly dominated the courts at Roland Garros by amassing a 52-1 career record and winning seven of the eight tournaments he has entered.

That is the definition of domination.

With Ferrer the only opponent left standing between Nadal and his eighth championship—this will be Ferrer’s first career Grand Slam final appearance—Nadal must use his vast big-match experience on the clay of Roland Garros to overwhelm his opponent.

Now that Nadal is healthy and playing as close to 100 percent as he has in the last year, his speed along the baseline and defensive prowess has returned to an elite level. Add that to his ability to crush the serve and intimidate his challengers with his raw power, and Nadal is a force to be reckoned with.

Every experience advantage belongs to Nadal in this matchup. While Ferrer has proven to be a worthy-enough adversary to make it into the final, the difference in confidence from a man that has won seven previous times at this tournament to a player that has never stepped foot onto a court in a major final is night and day.

Nadal will be in Ferrer’s head before the matchup ever starts and must utilize that mental edge to thoroughly dominate Sunday’s matchup. All his experience at Roland Garros will give him that advantage.


David Ferrer’s Tenacity Will Give Nadal Fits

David Ferrer made it to the final of the 2013 French Open playing as hard as any player the sport has ever seen. While the Spanish star may not beat Nadal, he deserves immense credit for giving every ounce of effort during this tournament.

Hard work only gets you so far, though, and while Ferrer may lack the elite size (5’9”) of the other players on tour, he has the speed and hand-eye coordination to make up for it.

Nadal knows where Ferrer’s strengths are in his game, and according to Roland Garros, the French Open legend expressed where he believes his challenger will thrive:

Ferrer will struggle with Nadal’s serve, but with his ability to run the baseline with anyone in the sport, Nadal will have to be at his best in order to sneak the ball past his fellow Spaniard.

This will truly be a test of attrition.

While most experts are counting him out already, if Ferrer can attack Nadal the same way he attacked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals and get him on his heels, there is always a chance he could stun the world and win this matchup.

It’s a longshot, but Ferrer has the heart and the skill to get it done.