PARIS: David Ferrer says he is ready to face the toughest challenge in world tennis — going up against Rafael Nadal on the claycourts of Roland Garros at the French Open.
The player they call “The Bulldozer” because of his relentless and attritional style has played 19 times against his fellow Spaniard and he has lost 15 of them.
Oddly for two such claycourt stalwarts, only once previously have they met at Roland Garros and that was in 2005 when Nadal made his debut in Paris and won comfortably 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 before going on to win his first Grand Slam title.
In fact the only time that Ferrer, who at 30 is four years older than Nadal, has beat him on clay was in their very first meeting in Stuttgart in 2004 and even that took three tough sets to get the job done.
The hard facts make grim reading for the hopes of Ferrer ahead of Friday’s semi-final.
Nadal’s straight sets victory over another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, in the quarter-finals brought up his 50th win at Roland Garros against just the one defeat — to Swede Robin Soderling in the 2009 fourth round.
On top of that, Nadal has added motivation this year as a win on Sunday would make him the first man to win seven French Open titles, snapping a tie with Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.
It would also be his 11th Grand Slam title, putting him level with Borg and Rod Laver.
Ferrer, through to his first semi-final here, insists that defeat for him is not inevitable.
“Yes, Rafa is always difficult to play. Even more so on clay,” he said.