Paris: Rafael Nadal was so good, he might have won with a hand tied behind his back. As it turned out, he was still able to capture one point while sitting on the red clay.
Slapping a shot back at David Ferrer even after he'd slipped onto the ground at rain-slicked Roland Garros, Nadal pulled out the point and many others on Friday, advancing to the French Open final with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 blowout over his sixth-seeded opponent.
"We were playing a fantastic point. You fall down. But I saw the ball all the time," Nadal said. "Even if I lost the balance of my body, I was watching the ball in every moment. Even if I'm on the floor, I had time to hit the ball in a reasonably good position."
All part of what Nadal called his best showing at the French Open so far this year " definitely saying something given he hasn't dropped a set and has lost a total of only 35 games over six matches. Only Bjorn Borg, who currently shares the record of six French Open titles with Nadal, lost fewer games through the semifinals. He dropped 27 in 1978 and 31 in 1980.
As well as he's playing, second-seeded Nadal said he made a minor adjustment to his game plan heading into the match against Ferrer, trying to move closer to the baseline, take the ball earlier. Among the stellar stats that came out of this tweak: Nadal went 13 for 13 on points at the net. Afterward, he was fielding questions about whether he played the perfect match.
"I really don't like to talk about perfection because, in my opinion, that doesn't exist," Nadal said. "You can always play better. But for sure, I'm very happy with how I'm playing."
On Sunday, he figures to get his toughest test when he plays either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, who waited through a rain delay of about 40 minutes before starting their semi-final.
Nadal will be hard-pressed to repeat his magic act from the second set against Ferrer. Rushing to the net at 1-1, 30-all, Nadal lost his footing, but was still able to punch a backhand at Ferrer and draw him to the net.
Ferrer rushed forward to get that shot back, but Nadal clambered back to his feet in time to throw up a lob that landed barely inside the baseline. Ferrer couldn't get it back, couldn't win the point even when his opponent was down on the ground " an especially depressing part of a brutal day for Ferrer, who was trying to make his first Grand Slam final but instead fell to 0-13 lifetime against his fellow Spaniard on the clay.
"I didn't see him go down," said Nadal's uncle and coach, Toni. "I saw it later on television. I was, 'Ohhhh.' On television, it was an amazing point, but Rafa was a little bit lucky. Good concentration."
Indeed, Nadal was in the zone, spending most of the day moving Ferrer around the court like a marionette. Ferrer actually had two break points in the first 15 minutes of the match, but couldn't convert either.
"He plays better than me all the time," Ferrer said. "It's difficult to say something, no? He was better, and he had a very good match."
Nadal has saved 18 of 19 break points against him in this tournament and has won 71 of 72 service games. He has been pushed only one time, and then only briefly " in a 7-6 first-set win against Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals.
Ferrer didn't manage six games in the entire match.
"I'm sorry for David," Nadal said. "He deserves it because he's a great fighter and he's always there, week after week."