Rafael Nadal has won the French Open title four times already. He has a 36-1 record at Roland Garros. And he has won all 15 sets on his way to the semi-finals this year, setting himself up to play against the Austrian player Jurgen Melzer. But the King of Clay has still refused to give himself the "favourite" tag to win the title again. A day after beating Nicolas Almagro, his fellow Spaniard, in straight sets, the world No 2 said yesterday: "Right now there is no one favourite. I've seen that my next opponent [Melzer] is very solid. I've seen him play, and, well, some of you might think it's a surprise. But trust me, if he made it to the semi-final, it is because he played extremely well and he is a very dangerous player."
If Nadal beats Melzer today, he will play either Robin Soderling, the world No 5, or Tomas Berdych, ranked 15th, for the title. Soderling, who last year became the only man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, is on a roll after beating world No 1 and last year's champion Roger Federer in the quarter-finals. But when asked if he is seeking revenge on the Swede, the Spaniard chose to remind all that he had Melzer to negotiate first. "I never think about revenge," he said. "And I am in the semi-finals against Melzer. So I am focused on that match."
Should Nadal, who turned 24 yesterday, win the crown, he will regain the top ranking from Federer. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic, who would have been Nadal's opponent if not for Melzer's late surge in their quarter-final, was unhappy that the chair umpire reversed a ruling in the final game. A cross-court forehand by Djokovic was called good for a winner, but the umpire climbed down from his chair, checked the ball mark on the clay and ruled the shot wide. "There was no space between the line and the mark, and that means the ball is good," said Djokovic, who argued only briefly. "To make such a mistake at that point is unbelievable. I mean, I don't know what was going on with him, but the ball was looking good from everywhere."
Djokovic conceded the ruling did not decide the match, however. There were 12 more points to go before Melzer won. * AP