All Spanish final set to light up Roland Garros in men’s decider.
Rafael Nadal is happy to suffer if it allows him to become the first man to capture the same Grand Slam title eight times when he tackles Spanish compatriot David Ferrer in Sunday’s French Open final.
Nadal, who won the Roland Garros crown in 2012 for the seventh time to pull clear of Bjorn Borg’s six titles, goes into his 17th Grand Slam final seeking a 12th major overall.
Ferrer, 31, Nadal’s senior by four years, will be playing on this stage for the first time and will be handicapped by a 19-4 losing streak against his fellow Spaniard, 16 of those losses coming on clay.
But Nadal is taking nothing for granted and is prepared for another marathon encounter after his epic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 9-7 win over world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
“I learned during all of my career to enjoy suffering, and these kind of matches are very special. You don’t have the chance to play these kind of matches every day,” said Nadal.
He had twice led top seed Djokovic by a set and a break but had to come back from 4-2 down in the decider to seal a place in his eighth Paris final, extending his record to 58 wins in 59 matches at the tournament in the process.
“When these kind of matches happen you suffer, but I really enjoy these moments. I really enjoy suffering, because what’s harder is when I am in Mallorca last year and I had to watch these kind of matches on the TV.
“Today I am here. So you can lose, you can win, and that’s part of the sport. That’s the beautiful thing.”
Nadal has been the sensation of 2013, winning 42 of 44 matches and six titles since his return in February from a seven-month injury lay-off to rest his troublesome knees.
It was a low period of his life and career as he missed the Olympics as well as US and Australian Opens.
Ferrer, the fourth seed, has reached his maiden final without losing a set.
He has slipped through the gap created when Andy Murray pulled out of the tournament with an injury and which was left wide open when Roger Federer was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Ferrer then eased past the Frenchman 6-1, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in his semi-final but he will be well aware that his only victory on clay against Nadal was in their first meeting at Stuttgart in 2004 when his compatriot was just 16.
As well as losing to Nadal in the quarter-finals in Paris in 2005, and in the semi-finals last year, Ferrer has already lost three times to his countryman in 2013, again all on clay.
“It’s a dream for me to be in the final of a Grand Slam, and Roland Garros is more important for me,” said Ferrer, who has lost eight straight to Nadal.
“I will fight. It’s very difficult to beat Rafael on all the surfaces, but on a clay court it is more difficult. I think I need to play my best tennis to beat him. I need to play very aggressive all the match.”
Ferrer should at least be the fresher of the two having spent six hours fewer than Nadal to get to the championship match.
Sunday’s match will be the third all-Spanish final at a Grand Slam and all have come in Paris.
Sergio Bruguera beat Alberto Berasategui in 1994, Carlos Moya saw off Alex Corretja four years later while, in 2002, Albert Costa got the better of Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Victory for Nadal will take him clear of Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, who have seven Wimbledon titles, as the most successful player at one major in the Open era.
Meanwhile, at 31 years and 68 days, Ferrer is bidding to become the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title since Andre Agassi (32 years 272 days) at the 2003 Australian Open.