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Ferrer has huge challenge in Nadal at French Open final

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Ferrer has huge challenge in Nadal at French Open final
Spaniard Rafael Nadal hits a shot during his French Open men's semifinal match against Serbian Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros in Paris on June 7, 2013. Nadal defeated Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7. UPI/David Silpa | License Photo

PARIS, June 8 (UPI) -- David Ferrer faces a daunting challenge Sunday as he heads into his first Grand Slam final against Rafael Nadal for the French Open men's singles championship.

Ferrer, the No. 4 seed, reached the French Open title match somewhat under the radar but in a strong way. Since being pushed to five sets in the opener against Albert Montanes, Ferrer hasn't lost a set.

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He gained his first trip to a major tournament final with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 win Friday over sixth-seeded and local French favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga drew attention with his quarterfinal upset of Roger Federer and the brightest spotlight was on the other half of the draw where world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Nadal, the third seed and three-time defending champion, were on a collision course.

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They certainly delivered with Nadal advancing on a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3), 9-7 decision in more than 4 1/2 hours of inspired tennis.

Because of his opponent, Ferrer isn't given much a chance Sunday but he is playing good tennis. He's won a pair of tournaments this year and been in three other finals.

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But then there's Nadal.

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After missing about half of last year because of a knee injury, Nadal is 42-2 this year. He's been in nine tournaments and reached the finals in all of them, winning six and the French Open pending.

Nadal is 58-1 at Roland Garros, a fourth-round loss in 2009 to Robin Soderling the only blip since he won his first French Open title in 2005. He won four straight titles before the 2009 loss and the three since. Only Max Decugis, who won eight French Open titles from 1903-14, has more.

Only twice before Nadal -- Paul Ayme (1897-1900) and Bjorn Borg (1978-81) -- has anyone won the event four consecutive years. Nadal is on the verge of doing that for a second time.

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He's also 16-1 (19-4 overall) versus Ferrer on clay. He has won their last eight matches, which were all on clay courts. However, the last two meetings went the full three sets so, while Nadal is a prohibitive favorite, it would be a mistake for him to look past Ferrer.

"I know he's the favorite but I am going to be focused every point. I will try to do my best," Ferrer said. "I am not thinking about Rafael, [if] he's better than me or not. I will try to fight a lot and to play very good match. After that, the match [is going to] depend on a lot of things."

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