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Ferrer: Final vs. Nadal is ‘opportunity of my life’

David Ferrer hasn't lost a set yet in this year's French Open and is trying to hand Rafael Nadal just his second loss in Paris.

David Ferrer hasn't lost a set yet in this year's French Open and is trying to hand Rafael Nadal just his second loss in Paris.

Bryan brothers win record 14th grand slam championship

PARIS — The 30-somethings have enjoyed themselves at the French Open this year and American twins Bob and Mike Bryan continued the trend by winning a record-extending 14th grand slam doubles title at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Just a few hours after 31-year-old fellow American Serena Williams hoisted the women’s trophy, the Bryans broke French hearts by beating Nicolas Mahut and Michael Llodra, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4), in an entertaining final.

When the 35-year-old identical twins captured the Australian Open title this year, they broke the record of 12 grand slams they had shared with Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche.

Like Williams, who ended an 11-year wait for a second Roland Garros title, the Bryans also endured a long delay before adding to their 2003 success.

“It’s great winning slams with your brother. Just we really wanted to win another French. It’s been 10 years. This is the first one we won back in the day and kind of launched our career,” said Mike, who is now half way towards completing a calendar grand slam.

“This is the toughest slam to win.

“I think 24 grand slam finals in 10 years is great. We lost a bunch of them early and we have won a bunch late.

“You never fathom that you’re going to hit that many slams and add a gold (from the Olympics) to it. It’s just been kind of a fairy tale.”

Things have certainly changed for the brothers since their last win at Roland Garros.

“I just remember we were sleeping on the floor at the Pierre et Vacances. We were trying to save a buck staying at the junior hotel,” recalled Bob, whose bank balance now boasts $10 million in prize money alone.

“The lights, I remember you walk down the hall and it’s all like motion sensors, so it would be dark and it could be light and then be dark behind you. It was just kind of a creepy roach motel.

“Now we have the suite at the Claridge.”

PARIS — David Ferrer is used to wearing the “best of the rest” label when it comes to Spanish claycourters, but today against Rafael Nadal the 31-year-old has the chance to add his name to the pantheon of greats.

The Valencia-based player has reached the French Open final without dropping a set, and on Friday produced a ruthless display of power and accuracy to torment French hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a straight-set victory.

It was a magnificent performance to end a sequence of five defeats in his five previous grand slam semifinals, yet once again Ferrer was left in the shade by Nadal’s extraordinary five-set semifinal thriller over Novak Djokovic.

For many that match was “le final” in all but name, but Nadal has too much respect for Ferrer — a player who shares his work ethic — to relax as he aims to become the first man to win the same grand slam tournament eight times.

“He didn’t lose a set during the whole tournament, so he’s a player that brings you to the limit,” 11-times major winner Nadal - who was an unknown 15-year-old when Ferrer began his professional career in 2000 - told reporters on Saturday.

“He’s a player that if you are not playing perfect, you will be in big, big trouble.”

The statistics do not look good for Ferrer, although he will take some heart from the fact that the last time two Spaniards met in the French Open final, in 2002, Albert Costa was the underdog but defeated Carlos Moya in four sets.

Ferrer won his first claycourt clash with Nadal in 2004. Since then he has lost 16 in a row on the surface.

Add the facts that Nadal has suffered one defeat in 59 matches at Roland Garros, has never lost any of his 13 finals against Spaniards, and is just five behind Argentine Guillermo Vilas’s record of 46 career claycourt titles, and the odds are stacked against fourth-seed Ferrer.

Ferrer has arguably been unlucky in that his career has spanned an era containing some of the greatest players in the sport’s history. More often than not in recent years the only players he loses to at grand slams are the top four of Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

He is not one to complain, though.

Instead he rolls up his sleeves and gets down to the business of winning tennis matches with the minimum of fuss, hustling and bustling behind the baseline and grinding most foes into submission.

Ferrer is one of the quickest players on the tour but he has other weapons, too.

He is accurate from the baseline with his economical groundstrokes off both flanks and can surprise opponents with well-disguised drop shots and an effective net game.

Ferrer’s serve does not have the beef to win many cheap points, though his variety of placement allows him to set up points and dominate from the middle of the court with angled forehand and backhands.

“Any person who doesn’t respect David as one of the greatest players of the world - and not for one year, for a long time - is a person that doesn’t know anything about tennis,” Nadal said when asked if Ferrer gets the respect he is due.

“When I read a few things about the semi-finals, Tsonga against David, people were saying was a good semi-final for Tsonga. I never felt that way. You play best of five on clay against David, it’s very, very tough.”

Ferrer, the third-oldest debut grand slam finalist, often talks reverentially about Nadal, and is happy to be mentioned in the same conversation.

Camaraderie will be interrupted on Sunday, though, as Ferrer attempts to capitalise on what might be his one and only chance of joining the grand slam winners’ club.

“It’s the opportunity of my life to be in the final,” Ferrer, who has managed it in his 42nd grand slam tournament, said.

“Defeating Rafa is very difficult on any surface; it’s even worse on clay. But once again, I’m going to try to play a beautiful match.”