"I think you cannot expect to win a semifinal like this against one of the best players of the world," Nadal said.
But he did.
On Sunday, Nadal will try to eclipse the record he shares with Bjorn Borg by winning his seventh French Open title.
Nadal will play either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic in the final, where, win or lose, he'll be hard-pressed to repeat his magic act from the second set against Ferrer. Rushing to the net at 1-1, 30-all, Nadal lost his footing, but was still able to punch a backhand at Ferrer and draw him to the net.
Ferrer rushed forward to get that shot back, but Nadal clambered back to his feet in time to throw up a lob that landed barely inside the baseline. Ferrer couldn't get it back, couldn't win the point even when his opponent was down on the ground an especially depressing part of a brutal day for Ferrer, who was trying to make his first Grand Slam final but instead fell to 0-13 lifetime against his fellow Spaniard on the clay.
"He plays better than me all the time," Ferrer said. "It's difficult to say something, no? He was better, and he had a very good match." Indeed, Nadal spent most of the day moving Ferrer around the court like a marionette. Ferrer actually had two break points in the first 15 minutes of the match, but couldn't convert either. Nadal has saved 18 of 19 break points against him in this tournament and has won 71 of 72 service games. He has been pushed only one time, and then only briefly in a 7-6 first-set win against Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals.