Eclipsed by the brilliance of Rafa

The two affable Spaniards, though, are still live contenders to go deep into the second week of the French Open which began on Sunday.

Ferrer, a feisty right-hander who was ranked fourth two years ago before his game plateaued, has enjoyed a renaissance during the European spring.

Showing glimpses of the blinding court and hand speed that helped him to the 2007 US Open semis, he reached the last four or better at the Masters events in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid in recent weeks where only four-time French Open champion Nadal and world number one Roger Federer have proved equal to the task of beating him on clay. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray (twice) have all failed to win a set against the 28-year-old, and he is in the form to show just how two quarter-final appearances in Paris are scant return on his undoubted talents.

“I've had fantastic consistency over the past four weeks,” Ferrer said in Madrid. “I’ve never had four weeks in a row with such good consistent results.

“It’s also true that several top 10 players are out with injuries and I've been able to take advantage a bit. When they come back it's going to get much more difficult. On top of that, we still have to play all the grass court tennis and hard surfaces; and clay is my best surface.”

Verdasco has been knocking on the door since making his major breakthrough at the Australian Open last year, when he came within a whisker of unseating Nadal in an epic semifinal.

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