Its official… a Spaniard will compete in the French Open Men’s Championship for the 10th time in 12 years after Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer won their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday.
Nadal scored his 50th match victory at Roland Garros – one more than Swedish great Bjorn Borg’s tally and six short of the all-time record held by Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas – by defeating his countryman Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 46 minutes.
More importantly, the win put him within two victories of a record seventh French Open title; Nadal currently shares the mark with Borg.
Shortly afterward, the 30-year-old Ferrer reached the semifinals at tennis’ biggest clay-court event for the first time ever with his 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2 victory over Scotland’s Andy Murray.
Even though Nadal’s victory was never really in question, the 26-year-old tenista was forced to play his first tiebreaker of this year’s tournament in the first set against Almagro, who put the world No. 2 on his heels at times by unleashing powerful blasts off both forehand and backhand.
But when it mattered most in the tiebreaker, Almagro made a costly error on a drop shot and later lost a 34-ball rally to fall behind 4-0, eventually losing that first-set decider by a score of 7-4.
The rest of the match was then practically a formality considering Nadal’s record at the French Open when winning the first set was 46-0 coming into the contest, although Almagro’s potent shot-making brought out the best in Nadal’s defensive skills.
“You cannot expect to win an easy match in (the) quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, (the) quarterfinals of Roland Garros,” Nadal said in the post-match press conference. (It) was a tough one, but I am through and I am very happy.”
He also looked ahead to his semifinal against good friend Ferrer. Nadal holds a 12-1 career edge in their meetings on clay but he’s expecting a difficult challenge on Friday.
“We (have) played each other a lot of times. His game bothers everybody because he’s one of the best players in the world on every surface – on clay especially,” Nadal said. “He’s a complete player. It’s very difficult to play against him, because his movement is probably the best in the world and he’s able to hit the ball very early a lot of the time.”
Meanwhile, Ferrer used his forehand to dictate most of the rallies in his grueling, three-hour, 45-minute slugfest Wednesday against Murray, shrugging off a second-set hiccup and a half-hour rain delay at the start of the third set.
The world No. 6 wore a big smile after a Murray backhand went wide on match point, thrilled to finally reach the final four of this Grand Slam event after several disappointing losses in previous years.
“My first time in semifinal in Roland Garros, so I feel good,” Ferrer said after his win. “It was a very tough match, and I’m very happy. Maybe it was in important moments I played better than him. I played very good with my forehand.”
Referring to the daunting task that awaits him in the next round, Ferrer said he will “try and play a beautiful match, my best tennis.”
With Wednesday’s results, Spain will be represented in the French Open final for the 10th time in the last 12 years; 2004 and 2009 were the only exceptions.
The victor in the Nadal-Ferrer match will play the winner of Friday’s other semifinal, which will pit world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and world No. 3 Roger Federer of Switzerland.