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Under a leaden sky that eventually would release a steady shower from the second set on, Ferrer felt nerves at the outset, he acknowledged later. But after the players traded early breaks, Ferrer held for a 3-2 lead.
That’s when Nadal took over, winning seven games in a row and 12 of 14. His court coverage was impeccable, as usual, showing no signs of any problems from that left knee, which was supported by a band of white tape. His lefty forehand whips were on-target, accounting for 19 of his 35 winners and repeatedly forcing errors from Ferrer.
When Nadal did have lapses, he admonished himself, once slapping his forehead with his right palm after pushing a lob wide. But what’s demoralizing for opponents is the way Nadal slams the door when they have openings, then rushes through when he gets the slightest chance.
He was at his relentless best on key points, including those four break chances for Ferrer at 3-1 in the second set. Immediately after, Nadal broke to 5-1 on a forehand winner down the line.
As Nadal prepared to serve in the next game, a man wearing a white mask and carrying a fiery flare jumped out of the stands nearby. The intruder quickly was shoved to the ground by one security guard, while another went to protect Nadal.
"I felt a little bit scared at the first moment," Nadal said, "because I didn’t see what’s going on."
It happened within a few minutes of other actions by protesters, including chanting from the upper deck that briefly delayed play. Police said seven people were held for questioning.
Nadal got broken in that game, then broke back right away to take the second set.
The third set was similar to the first. It was 3-all, then suddenly over. Nadal took the last three games, ending the match with a forehand winner before dropping his racket and falling on his back, leaving a rust-colored smudge on his white shirt and flecks of clay on his stubbled cheeks. Soon he was standing, holding his index finger aloft.
Yes, Nadal is No. 1 at the French Open. When the ATP rankings are issued Monday, however, he will be No. 5, because of points he dropped while hurt.
Ferrer will be at No. 4.
"Yeah, it’s strange, no? I lost the final against Rafael, but tomorrow I am going to be No. 4 and him No. 5," Ferrer said with a grin, then delivered his punch line: "I prefer to win here and to stay No. 5."
Sorry, David. This is Nadal’s tournament.
Now the question becomes: Is eight enough?
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