For David Ferrer to win at Roland Garros in his first Grand Slam final, he will have to take down "The King of Clay" Rafael Nadal.
This will be Ferrer’s toughest match to date. Sure, he has faced Nadal at this exact center court before but not with these stakes.
And Ferrer’s track record in those previous matches leaves something to be desired, per ESPN Stats and Info:
David Ferrer is 1-16 in his career on clay against Rafael Nadal— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 8, 2013
While Nadal has been touted as the heavy favorite and rightfully so, Ferrer has looked like a new player in this tournament.
A player on a mission.
Ferrer has yet to lose a set in this tournament, going 18 of 18 at Roland Garros. If confidence breeds victories, the older Spaniard could tango with Nadal deep into the match.
Nadal has talked about his respect for Ferrer as a player; certainly he has been warned by Ferrer's impressive run, per Roland Garros' Twitter:
Nadal re Ferrer: "He's a complete player - good forehand, backhand... No mistakes." #RG13— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) June 8, 2013
Let’s not forget about the fatigue factor either. It was not long ago that Nadal was out of commission, nursing a knee injury that took months to rehabilitate.
Will Nadal Having Played Six More Hours of Tennis This Tournament Affect His Play?
This tournament has not been kind to Nadal in terms of keeping his knee fresh. Rafa has had to play six more hours of French Open tennis than Ferrer.
Most of the credit for those extra hours has to go to Novak Djokovic and their five-hour tennis extravaganza in the semifinal. Many viewers are considering that match to be the de facto final in this tournament.
Nonetheless, how can Ferrer contend against and even beat a player who’s 59-1 at this tournament?
He will need to extend points, try to work Nadal’s knee and tire him out.
If Ferrer can keep up with Nadal early, perhaps he can stick around. Almost no one in the stadium will think that Ferrer has a true chance of winning the match, so he will need to utilize the element of surprise early on.
Don’t discount the desperation factor in this match either. Sure, this may be Ferrer’s first time in the final, but Nadal wants to make a statement that he’s back on top as well.
The older Spaniard would be better suited staying even-keeled and forcing Nadal to overpower his way to a win.
Ferrer needs several breaks to fall in his favor, but no win is ever out of grasp.
On Sunday, it’s anybody’s match.