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All-Spanish Final As Rafa Bids To Extend Record

This content was published 12 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Most people expected at least one Spanish representative in the 2010 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final, and this year we have got two for the price of one
David Ferrer emerged unscathed from the civil war with Fernando Verdasco in the semi-final to make his first ever appearance in an ATP Masters 1000 final, and his reward is a clash with Rafael Nadal. The received wisdom was that Ferrer – Verdasco would be a tooth-and-nail epic while Nadal would cruise past the unseeded and enigmatic Ernests Gulbis – in the end it was the exact opposite. After three solid weeks of tennis and two finals in a row, Verdasco was running on fumes. His engine stalled when he was 5-1 up in the opener and never got going again.
Nadal meanwhile was pushed all the way in a three-hour epic with young upstart Gulbis. The Latvian used his height and big serves to become the first person to take a set off the Majorcan on clay this year, and was eight points from victory when Rafa stepped up his play and turbo-charged through the last two games, breaking and holding at the crucial moment – much as he had done in the first set of his quarter-final against Stanislas Wawrinka on Friday.
Davis Cup compadres Nadal and Ferrer have already met a mammoth 13 times in the past, with the world No.3 holding a 10-3 lead, 7-1 on clay. Ferrer enjoyed a comparative purple patch at the end of 2007 – at a time when he was working his way up to fourth in the world – defeating Nadal in the fourth round of the US Open in four sets and then at the end-of-season Masters in Shanghai, again for the loss of a set. Since then it has been all Nadal however, with the Majorcan recording six wins in a row, four on clay and dropping only one set in the process.
This is the third time that the two have met this year, at each of the last three Masters 1000 tournaments in fact. Rafa obviously won both, more convincingly on the clay of Monte Carlo (6-2, 6-3) than on the hard courts of Miami (7-6(5), 6-4).
While Nadal already has a storied career and had wrested the world No.1 ranking from the seemingly impregnable defences of Roger Federer 18 months ago, only to succumb to injuries in mid-2009, Ferrer is a player who has flattered to deceive. He has two pages to himself in the ATP guide – the same as Grand Slam winners like Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero – and yet he has never won a Major. Or a Master’s. Or even made the final of one, until now. His chief run of success came towards the end of the 2007 season when he made it into the top eight by dint of some consistent, but not outstanding, results and won his three group matches and the semi-final at the ATP end-of-season Masters, losing only to Federer in the final.
Sunday’s final is expected to be yet another demonstration of Nadal’s clay-court expertise, but Ferrer knows that he is on a hiding to nothing and will come out and play the kind of positive tennis which served Wawrinka and Gulbis well this week. “Nadal is the best player on clay, so I’ll try and do my best and I will need to play very aggressively against him,” said the world No.17 on Saturday. “I don’t have a very good serve or a lot of power and so it is important for me to be physically fit and to run around.” Ferrer’s wish for a run-around will likely be granted, but at least Gulbis has shown him that there is indeed a chink in the Majorcan’s armour.

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