Friday June 8th, 2012

You know you're playing well when you can fall down, hit a shot off your "famous a--" and win the point in a Grand Slam semifinal against one of the best clay-courters in the world. In other words, Rafael Nadal is playing ... pretty OK.

My Roget's Thesaurus is empty. Every superlative has been used. The well of analogies has run dry. If David Ferrer is "The Little Beast," then Nadal proved once again why he's "The Big Beast" in this tournament. In his 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 destruct-o-thon of his good friend and Spanish compatriot on Friday, Nadal kept racking up the numbers that show he's well on his way to finishing his most dominant two weeks ever at the French Open.

The entire match -- and really, Nadal's career on clay -- was summarized perfectly in the first five games. Ferrer's well-documented lack of belief when it comes to his ability to beat Nadal wasn't readily apparent early. Nadal started tentatively and if Ferrer came into the match less than 50 percent confident he could win, the number must have been creeping up as he sat down on the first changeover. He had held his serve twice against the Rafa onslaught, and if he could just keep pressing, he had to think the opportunities might come.

Sure enough, those chances fell in his lap in the next game, as Ferrer earned two break points. But just as Nadal had done all tournament (he's been broken only once), he saved them both and held for 2-2. Then, before Ferrer even had time to feel sorry for himself, Nadal broke at love in the next game. For a surface that's supposed move at the speed of molasses, that's how quickly things can flip against Rafa, who went on to break Ferrer at love again two games later. In fact, after failing to convert those early break points, Ferrer would manage to win a mere three points in the first set to drop it 6-2 in 39 minutes.

And that's how Nadal breaks down your game in one fell swoop. Thanks for playing, David. Have a nice day. Here's $20, go buy yourself something nice. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Nadal will enter his fifth straight major final as the heavy favorite against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who motored his way past an inconsistent Roger Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 to advance to his first Roland Garros final. How heavy of a favorite? While Djokovic has been patchy over his last few matches, needing five sets to get past Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and looking less than his usual superlative self against Federer, Nadal has cruised. Rafa hasn't lost a set all tournament or dropped his serve since the first round, and he's saved 18 of 19 break points overall. In fact, he's lost only 35 games in six matches, or fewer than six per match. Nadal can't ask for any better lead-up as he tries to break a tie with Bjorn Borg and win a record seventh French Open title.

"I don’t believe in perfection," Nadal told reporters after the match. "I really don’t like to talk about perfection, because that doesn’t exist.  You can play always better." Well, jeez, Rafa, that's a frightening thought.

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