MONTE CARLO, Monaco – A little rain shower at the start of the match could not stop him Friday, neither could Juan Carlos Ferrero. Probably there is no one who can prevent Rafael Nadal from claiming a record breaking sixth straight title here at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
Ferrero did at least manage to break his compatriot's serve -- something that had not been done before this week -- but it was a futile gesture, merely delaying Nadal's route to the semifinal of this ATP Masters 1000 event with a 6-4, 6-2 victory. It was Nadal's 30th consecutive victory on these courts in six years.
Having watched him perform with such serene certitude here all week, it is difficult to believe this mighty left hander has not won a title on the ATP tour since Rome 11 months ago. But, with clay beneath his feet once again, only Roger Federer seems to have the capability of worrying Nadal and the Swiss is taking this week off.
Ferrero, who has been playing well this year without ever threatening to regain the No. 1 position he held briefly seven years ago, was impressed with his friend's performance. "He was so powerful out there," Ferrero said. "He plays better in the big moments. I think he's playing a little more aggressive. He puts a thousand balls in court and it is difficult to get a winner."
Ferrero, a quiet, studious figure, who has built his own training center in Valencia, shrugged. "But it doesn't matter. Even his bad days are good."
And this was not one of Rafa's bad days. On Saturday he will face yet another Spaniard, David Ferrer who battled past the German, Phillip Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-6. Nadal says Ferrer is different from his near namesake, playing with higher intensity.
"It is important to play inside the court and make him feel not comfortable when he is attacking the ball," Nadal said of Ferrer.
Has anyone ever felt comfortable playing Rafa?
On the other side of the draw. Novak Djokovic looked good while defeating Argentina's David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3, but the man the Serb plays next -- Fernando Verdasco -- made life unnecessarily hard for himself by blowing a 5-1 second set lead against yet another Spaniard, Albert Montanes, before re-focusing to win 6-3, 6-7, 6-0.
It was not a good day for the Bryan brothers. Bob and Mike started off in fine fashion against the dangerous team of Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi, the No. 5 seeds, but eventually lost out after a big battle for the deciding 10-point doubles tiebreak to lose 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.