Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press
Strangely, we know more about what we will get from Ferrer than Nadal. If Nadal had been ripping through the past six weeks in top form, there would be no need to analyze this match. He has pushed aside a weak lineup so far, but this match will give us a better sense of what to expect going forward.
Is Nadal near the form that has won eight of the past nine French Open titles, or will he struggle with more of his recent vulnerabilities?
If Nadal is serving with strong variety and effectiveness, he will be able to set up his forehand and dictate play. He wants to lock in with his offense, penetrate deep and flat with his backhand, crush his inverse forehand and pull a heavy dose of topspin to Ferrer's backhand.
The Nadal forehand has always been the biggest difference between these two. Last year's French Open final produced 19 forehand winners from Nadal but only 10 for Ferrer. Their seven backhand winners were a stalemate and their unforced errors (45-42 Nadal) were nearly even. Nadal's big hammer is the key.
Nadal's tendencies are to start conservative and play to his margin of safety. He will force Ferrer to go for his shots, but if both players are locked in, Nadal is a bigger finisher. Add into this his history of domination over Ferrer and Roland Garros, Nadal's A-game will win handily and even his B-game would probably be enough.
Watch to see how far back Nadal decides to play Ferrer's second serves. If he gives up too much ground, Ferrer could get enough short balls to create pressure.
Nadal also needs to come in behind some of his big approach shots. He is an underrated net player and one of the best ever at finishing overhead smashes. These easier points also give him that extra sense of confidence that can quickly roll over his opponents.
Optimum health, sharp execution and big-match energy are the driving force to another Nadal victory.