06/08/2012 01:25 am ET

Rafael Nadal vs. David Ferrer: French Open Semifinal Features All-Spanish Pairing

The editors of preview Thursday's French Open semifinals—and offer their picks.

(2) Rafael Nadal vs. (6) David Ferrer

--Head to Head: Nadal leads 15-4

What Nadal must do to win
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Should Nadal play the way he did in his quarterfinal against Nicolas Almagro, Ferrer is as good as gone. Rafa won points with his movement, forehand, backhand, and serve; Almagro actually played well, yet lost in straights. With two more wins -- one perhaps over Novak Djokovic -- Nadal would earn a record-setting seventh French Open title. We can think that far ahead, but Nadal can’t afford to.

What Ferrer must do to win
You can’t completely discount Ferrer’s chances -- he’s beaten Nadal at Slams twice before. With that said, Ferrer must play a completely different style than what got him here if he’s to shock the sporting world. Fearless winners beat Rafa on clay, not long rallies, a Ferrer specialty but a Nadal entity. Ferrer, 1-12 on dirt against his countryman, also needs all the non-tennis factors (weather, the crowd, Nadal’s health) to conspire in his favor.


Peter Bodo: Rafael Nadal
Ferrer lacks the one thing that can hurt Nadal at Roland Garros, which is a big game built around a powerful serve. Unless Rafa experiences a drastic, overnight loss of form, you can just mail this one in.

Steve Tignor: Rafael Nadal
It's been eight years since Nadal lost to Ferrer on clay, he's 50-1 at Roland Garros, he hasn't lost a set this year, and he's only dropped serve once. Need any other reasons?

Richard Pagliaro: Rafael Nadal
Nadal has won 11 of their last 12 meetings because he does everything a bit better, and his lefty, cross-court forehand goes directly into Ferrer's weaker backhand wing. Unless Rafa is leaving the ball short or gets tight, he should continue his mastery of his Davis Cup teammate.

Ed McGrogan: Rafael Nadal
Rafa can be stopped at Roland Garros, but it won't happen on Friday. The never-say-die Ferrer produces problems on clay for everyone except the player he’s facing in the semis.